Zinn Education Project: The Truth About Helen Keller

Subject: Disablity / Education / Women's History
Themes: Women's Rights Education Civil Rights 20th Century
Age groups: High School
Resource type: Teacher Tools

Helen Keller Portrait by Robert ShetterlyThe Truth About Helen Keller

Article for Teachers and High School Students – PDF. (Register or Log in at zinnedproject.org to download the PDF.) By Ruth Shagoury. 6 pages. A review of children's picture books about the life of Helen Keller reveals the omission of any description of her active role in key social movements of the 20th century.

It's time to start telling the truth about Helen Keller. The "Helen Keller story" that is stamped in our collective consciousness freezes her in childhood. We remember her most vividly at age seven when her teacher, Annie Sullivan, connected her to language through a magical moment at the water pump. We learned little of her life beyond her teen years, except that she worked on behalf of the handicapped.


More than an icon of American "can-do," Helen Keller was a tireless advocate of the poor and disenfranchised. Her life story could serve as a fascinating example for children, but most picture books about Helen Keller are woefully silent about her life's work.

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