Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Women in my Life. Part Two: Helen Keller

Helen Keller (1880-1968)

(By the way, I thought it would be appropriate to display a photo of Helen Keller with her Oscar, since it is Oscar night).

Sure, we've all seen "The Miracle Worker" both Patty Duked and Melissa Gilmored. It's sweet, but hardly touches the depth of what this woman accomplished. Yes, she finally uttered "wa-wa" by the water pump at the age of six. But did you know that by the age of ten she was already studying advanced Latin, Greek, German and French? My god, I still cringe when remembering my baby-Latin lessons in the seminary.

In college at Radcliffe, she excelled in algebra and geometry. Geometry is challenging enough when you can see an isosceles triangle and hear a teacher explain a theorem.

Her life wasn't all a bed of roses either. She fell in love with a young man soon after college. Deeply in love, yet the romance was thwarted by her mother and beloved teacher. Ouch.

While abroad on one occasion, a fire leveled their house, obliterating her all her manuscripts and braille texts which were so rare in those days. The woman knew about loss and affliction.

Helen Keller was also a staunch Communist, campaigning for the rights of the working-class poor and disenfranchised. As early as the 1920's, she brought to the forefront an awareness of syphilis, its treatment and for women's reproductive rights.

I note these facts, not to shock anyone, but simply do get away from the fluffy, Victorian sentimentality that seems to follow her.

Here was a woman ahead of her time. A woman of principle!
And, a woman with an incredible insight toward the challenges of life:
"When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been open for us."
-- Helen Keller

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