The uniquely remarkable life of Helen Keller

Keller is remembered for her advocacy for persons with blindness and other physical disabilities. But her social and political advocacy may not be so well known, it wasn’t to me. In politics, she could be considered an early progressive, having joined the Socialist Party of America. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Helen Keller

by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

illustrated by Sam Rudd
a Little People, BIG DREAMS book

We all began life as children, often with a dream we hoped to achieve.  Some people overcome monumental challenges to achieve their dream and Helen Keller was one of them.

This children’s book from Quarto Publishing Group-Frances Lincoln Children’s Books tells her story differently from what you have heard before.

I reviewed a complimentary advance digital copy of this book from the publisher and NetGalley. I’m using affiliate links in this post to help fund this blog.

Helen Keller, the disabled child

Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara begins Helen’s story with her childhood in Alabama, raised by loving parents, facing the challenge of raising a child rendered deaf and blind from a serious illness as an infant. Despite their attention and her own innate resourcefulness to cope with this devastating disability, she remained isolated and frustrated-that is until Annie Sullivan, a teacher for the blind, came into her life.

With Annie’s help, and eventual friendship, Helen learned to understand words and to read Braille. She also learned to speak from a teacher of deaf persons. With these skills, she went to college, becoming the first deafblind person to earn a college degree and wrote a book about her life.

Helen Keller, the advocate

But Helen’s remarkable life did not stop there and neither does this story. Ms. Vegara chronicles Helen’s life as an activist and advocate for other people with disabilities, for women’s right to vote, and for African Americans’ civil rights. She travelled the world giving speeches, met United States presidents and other famous people. 

The pictures are attractive to children without looking childish. Mr. Rudd’s colorful illustrations capture Helen’s personality and interactions with various people who played important roles in her life- her Black childhood playmate who was the daughter of the family’s  cook, and adult friends Mark Twain and Alexander Graham Bell.

Parents will find this book a valuable resource to introduce this remarkable woman to their children. The author tells Helen’s story tastefully, never minimizing the severity of her condition but not emphasizing it over her achievements.

Helen Keller’s complex life

Reading this children’s book prompted me to reflect on what I already knew about Helen Keller. I was in high school when Keller died in 1968 and despite the lack of streaming television, internet, and social media I was familiar with her as a famous living person.

Even if you’re younger, you may know of Helen Keller from the movie, The Miracle Worker. The 1962 original version starred Patty Duke as Helen and Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan, both won Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress.

Ms. Duke also acted in a TV movie version in 1979; in it she played Annie and Helen was portrayed by Melissa Gilbert. (Depending on your age, you may remember her from the TV show Little House on the Prairie; she later portrayed Anne in The Diary of Anne Frank.)

But still some things in the book surprised me. I didn’t know that Helen, born in 1880,  grew up in the American south, Alabama. This was barely 20 years after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, which supported the Southern economy. Her father, a newspaper editor, was a captain in the Confederate Army. Her mother’s father was a Confederate general. “The family lost most of its wealth during the Civil War and lived modestly.”

Keller is remembered for her advocacy for persons with blindness and other physical disabilities. But her social and political advocacy may not be so well known. In politics, she could be considered an early progressive, having joined the Socialist Party of America. She was a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

On social issues, she favored women, African Americans, workers, and the poor. She was a suffragist and pacifist, and supported civil rights and the NAACP.

From an early age, she championed the rights of the underdog and used her skills as a writer to speak truth to power. 

AFB website

Helen Keller wrote her own life story as well as other books, essays, and magazine articles. Her autobiography, The Story of My Life, was published in 1903. It has been translated into 50 languages..

Helen’s other published works include Optimism, an essay; The World I Live In; The Song of the Stone Wall; Out of the Dark; My Religion; Midstream—My Later Life; Peace at Eventide; Helen Keller in Scotland; Helen Keller’s Journal; Let Us Have Faith; Teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy; and The Open Door. In addition, she was a frequent contributor to magazines and newspapers.

“The Helen Keller Archives contain over 475 speeches and essays that she wrote on topics such as faith, blindness prevention, birth control, the rise of fascism in Europe, and atomic energy. Helen used a braille typewriter to prepare her manuscripts and then copied them on a regular typewriter.”

Helen Keller’s legacy shines through her work with the blind; she worked for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) from 1924 until 1968. During this time, she toured the United States and traveled to 35 countries around the globe advocating for those with vision loss and raising funds for the organization.

source: Helen Keller archives

For this post I used information from The Helen Keller Archival Collection at the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), the world’s largest collection of writings, letters, speeches, photographs, artifacts, audio-video, and other materials relating to Helen Keller.

Little People, BIG DREAMS

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people-designers, artists,scientists and activists. They all achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

This empowering series of 101 books offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. The board books use simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. The hardback versions present expanded stories for beginning readers.

Parents and grandparents can create a collection of the books by theme. Matching games and other fun learning tools provide other ways to make the lives of these role models accessible to children​.

Inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world with Little People, BIG DREAMS!

exploring the HEART of health through inspiring people

Thank you for reading this post about Helen Keller’s challenging life, information that can inspire you to turn your health challenges into health opportunities. If you are a parent or grandparent, introduce your kids to her and other people like her. Who knows, they may be the next world changers.

Please follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to nourish your HEART of health.


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I welcome support of any size , all of which go to fund this blog and help me share the HEART of health all over the world.

I appreciate your time and hope you’ll visit regularly.

Dr Aletha

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The Democratic Party-Tackling Drug Costs and Improving Healthcare Quality

Democrats are committed to investing in the research, development, and innovation that creates lifesaving drugs and lowers overall health costs, but the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies is simply unacceptable.

I’m writing a series of blog posts about each major political party’s platform on healthcare and related issues. I take this information directly from the website of each party and include the link so you can read the complete document.

We’ve already looked at the parties’ views on gun related violence and health insurance.

Whether you are registered as Republican, Democrat, Independent, or some other party, ultimately you will vote for a person. Do your research and learn what that person stands for, and whether it aligns with their party policy.

This post will review the Democratic position , and will be followed by the Republican stance in a few days. Follow this blog so you’ll know when each post in the series is online.

Note: the photos are for illustration, are not affiliated with the party platform, and are not intended to influence your opinion.

The Democratic Party Platform

This party platform was considered by the 2020 Platform committee at its meeting July 27, 2020 and was approved by the Democratic National Convention August 18, 2020.

Update-August 15, 2022

On August 12, 2022 Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act which, among other things ,made major changes to health policy by giving Medicare the power for the first time to negotiate the prices of certain prescription drugs and extending expiring health care subsidies for three years. It narrowly passed the Senate with a 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans, with Vice President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote to approve.

 No American should find themselves foregoing or rationing medications because they can’t afford to pay

the Democratic Party platform

Bringing Down Drug Prices and Taking on the Pharmaceutical Industry

Too many Americans struggle to afford the prescription drugs they need to get or stay healthy. No American should find themselves foregoing or rationing medications because they can’t afford to pay—especially when taxpayer money underwrites research leading to the development of many prescription drugs in the first place.

Democrats will take aggressive action to

  • ensure that Americans do not pay more for prescription drugs than people in other advanced economies, and
  • ensure that all necessary medications are covered.
  • empower Medicare to at last be able to negotiate prescription drug prices for all public and private purchasers—for families and businesses, as well as older Americans—no matter where they get their coverage.
  • prevent the price of brand-name and outlier generic drugs from rising faster than the inflation rate.
  • cap out-of-pocket drug costs for seniors, and ensure that effective treatments for chronic health conditions are available at little or no cost.
white capsules in front of a prescription bottle
Photo by Julie Viken on

For too long, prescription drug companies have gamed the system to justify their price increases by any means available. Democrats will

  • crack down on anti-competitive efforts to manipulate the patent system or collude on prices.
  • eliminate tax breaks for prescription drug advertisements.

Democrats are committed to investing in the research, development, and innovation that creates lifesaving drugs and lowers overall health costs, but the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies is simply unacceptable.

Reducing Health Care Costs and Improving Health Care Quality

The United States spends more per capita on health care than any other advanced economy, and has less to show for it. Health care costs have been increasing for decades, with average premiums for an employer-provided family plan topping $20,000 in 2019.

Democrats know we can reduce out-of-pocket costs for families while improving the quality of health care for all.

We will make it easier for working families to afford high-quality insurance in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces by ensuring that no one pays more than 8.5 percent of their income in premiums and eliminating the cap on subsidies.

Democrats believe that when Americans are in the hospital or an emergency room, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether their health care providers are in-network or not.

We will

  • outlaw the predatory practice of surprise medical billing.
  • work to increase price transparency in the health care system across all payers.
  • reduce paperwork through uniform medical billing.
  • use antitrust laws to fight against mega-mergers in the hospital, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries that would raise prices for patients by undermining market competition.

Democrats will fight any efforts to cut Medicare benefits, and support finding financially sustainable policies to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing.

a female physician talking to a male patient

Democrats will support policies that increase the number of primary care practitioners, registered nurses, dentists, and dental therapists, especially in rural and low-income metropolitan areas, so it’s easier for every American to access preventive and primary health care.

Democrats value all people and will actively promote wellness programs for all ages in our diverse communities for better overall health.

Drugged Driving-Drug and alcohol use can impair driving by affecting critical thinking and motor skills.

Expanding Access to Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment

Every American who needs it should be able to access mental health care or substance use disorder treatment, no matter where they live.

Democrats will

aggressively enforce the federal mental health and substance use disorder parity law and ensure that health insurers adequately cover mental health and substance use treatment.

invest in training and hiring more mental health providers, substance use disorder counselors, and peer support counselors, expanding funding for health clinics, especially in rural areas, and increasing access to these services through Medicaid.

support increased training for health care professionals, educators, social workers, and other care workers in trauma-informed care and practices.

oppose efforts to weaken HIPAA and FERPA privacy rights of people with mental illness.

make medication-assisted treatment available to all who need it, and will require publicly supported health clinics to offer medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction and approved treatments for other substance use disorders.

Incarcerated people suffer from serious mental health and substance use disorders at higher rates than the general population, which is why we will

  • support expanded access to mental health and substance use disorder care in prisons and for returning citizens.
  • ensure no one is incarcerated solely for drug use, and
  • support increased use of drug courts, harm reduction interventions, and treatment diversion programs for those struggling with substance use disorders.
Tips for talking with your health care provider about your mental health-prepare before visit, bring a friend or relative, be honest, ask questions

Expanding Long-Term Care Services and Supports

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities of people who reside in institutional settings, such as nursing homes and independent living facilities, and made clear that biases within Medicaid create undue barriers to home- and community-based long-term services and supports.

Democrats will

work to eliminate waiting lists for home and community-based care and the institutional bias within Medicaid, making investments in building the capacity of the Medicaid system to provide home and community-based services

modernize Medicaid eligibility so people with disabilities do not have to work low-wage jobs to access needed services, and to ensure the spouses of people with disabilities can maintain a certain level of income and assets.

help Americans pay for long-term care by creating a tax credit for informal and family caregivers and increasing the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

pursue policies to improve nursing home staffing and quality standards, strengthen accreditation processes, and combat corporate abuses in nursing homes and independent living facilities.

And Democrats are strongly committed to protecting and enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act and fulfilling the promise of the Olmstead v. L.C. decision, which found institutional segregation of people with disabilities to be unlawful.

a man in a wheelchair

exploring the HEART of healthcare policy

I appreciate your interest in the politics of healthcare, an issue that is vital to all of us every day. These proposals will become more focussed and debated as election day approaches; the national election is Tuesday Novembe 8, 2022. Please exercise your right to vote, I intend to.

Dr Aletha

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