Video: Helen Keller Tells It

In addition to being a die-hard advocate for women’s rights, a champion for people with disabilities and totally anti-war, Helen Keller, whose 138th birthday is today, was also fiercely socialist. Economic inequality was anathema to America’s promises of equality and opportunity, she said.

The country is governed for the richest, for the corporations, the bankers, the land speculators, and for the exploiters of labor. The majority of mankind are working people. So long as their fair demands—the ownership and control of their livelihoods—are set at naught, we can have neither men’s rights nor women’s rights. The majority of mankind is ground down by industrial oppression in order that the small remnant may live in ease.

And this same sentiment informed her anti-war stance, too:

The few who profit from the labor of the masses want to organize the workers into an army which will protect the interests of the capitalists. … It is in your power to refuse to carry the artillery… You do not need to make a great noise about it. With the silence and dignity of creators you can end wars and the system of selfishness and exploitation that causes wars. All you need to do to bring about this stupendous revolution is to straighten up and fold your arms.

Today, as our nation hurtles further and further into a right-wing nightmare, let’s celebrate Keller not just for overcoming being deaf and blind to become an international inspiration, but for her staunch defense of human rights, democracy and American justice, something which, if recent news is any indication, is increasingly blind. (And will likely become even more so…)

AFTER THE JUMP, Keller discusses her greatest regret – not being able to speak like the rest of us, which is too bad, because she left a far larger impression than most people who can speak “normal.”

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The ‘NY Times’ Reports on Stanton’s Speech, 1860

On this date in 1860, Elizabeth Cady Stanton appeared before the New York House Judiciary Committee to stump for women’s suffrage, the activists’ life-long mission. Here, via Washington DC’s Evening Star, is the contemporary New York Times‘ dubious report on Stanton’s appearance:

“Last evening, or yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Stanton spoke for two hours in advocacy of [women’s suffrage] before the House Judiciary Committee, and an audience that filled the Assembly Chamber as I never saw it filled, except when Seward was elected Senator in ’55. Then it was jammed — yesterday it was simply full.

Mrs. Stanton talked forcibly — it is needless for me to say that she talked earnestly of woman’s sufferings, sweetly of her endurance, eloquently of her rights. When she talked of her property, of her rights to be released from the bondage of an ill-assorted marriage, she was listened to with marked favor. She pleaded these demands with the feelings of a true woman, and she carried the conviction that she was no asking more than policy as well as justice demanded should be conceded.

When she claimed that her voice should be heard on the hustings, and her vote be received at the ballot-box, she was earnest, and eloquent, and plausible, but she must have felt that she was not convincing her audience — and she did not.”

Indeed: New York didn’t give women the right to vote until 1917 a mere three years before suffrage passed nationwide. Wyoming, by the way, was the first U.S. place to give women the vote: in 1869, when the future state was still a territory and when the measure was originally proposed as a joke. Women got the last laugh with that one!