cover image Radical Lives of Helen Keller

Radical Lives of Helen Keller

Kim E. Nielsen. New York University Press, $41 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-8147-5813-7

Helen Keller is readily remembered as a poster-girl for sign language, but few people know that, as an adult, Helen Keller was also a socialist, suffragist and supporter of birth control. According to historian and women's studies scholar Nielsen,""the sentimentalized story of the young deaf-blind girl has trumped"" the history of the radical activist. Nielsen describes how Keller joined the Socialist Party at the age of 29, and""criticized World War I as a profit-making venture for industrialists."" But Nielsen also highlights the fact that Keller's radicalism, ironically, did not extend to the rights of the disabled; she even supported eugenics to prevent the birth of disabled children. Nielsen mines Keller's writings and speeches to illuminate this little-known side of Keller's biography, and this account should fascinate students of radicalism and those interested in the disabled and their rights.