18: Helen Keller - more than just W-A-T-E-R
One thing that's always bothered me is how both Deaf and hearing people view Helen Keller. I see her as a victim of crab theory. Deaf people see her as a traitor. She apparently disdained Deaf people and made efforts to speak, and was friendly with Alexander Graham Bell, who tried to eradicate the Deaf population in America and fought with Edward Miner Gallaudet about how to educate Deaf people.
Hearing people see her these days as a pathetic figure who somehow learned... something. We are often not sure what, because usually they stop talking about her life at the point where she learns to spell W-A-T-E-R. Yet she wrote 13 books; she campaigned extensively on behalf of the poor; she saw blindness as a social issue which could be prevented instead of a moral issue which was decided by God; and she made ties to socialist organizations in America which persisted until her death. To hearing folk, however, she's still just a disabled person who learned to spell.
To my sorrow, most of the 13 are impossible to get and read. But the miracle of Google Books now gives us texts we can even download - not only the ubiquitous "Story of My Life" but "Optimism: An Essay," a poem called "The Song of the Stone Wall" (how closely is this connected to another book titled "No Walls of Stone?",) "The World I Live In" and "Out of the Dark: Essays, Lectures and Addresses on Physical and Social Vision." I hope people read these texts and gain a better picture, a more whole picture, of Helen Keller. She deserves more than just crabbiness.