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Why Did Helen Keller Become a Socialist?

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==Birth of a Leftist Consciousness==
[[File:Keller.jpg|thumbnail|300px|left|Helen Keller reading Braille, circa 1907. Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division]]
The experience of isolation, the realization that mutual understanding and cooperation can overcome silence and darkness, and the sheer determination to be heard—all of Keller’s literal experiences—were easily translated into a push to overcome the figurative isolation, silence, and darkness that many marginalized groups were experiencing in American society during the 1910s, the period just after Keller graduated from Radcliffe. By this time, she was living with Sullivan and her new husband, John Macy, a young Harvard University instructor and a social critic. Macy was angry about the inequality he believed was caused by the machinations of the U.S. capitalist system. He was also sympathetic to the oppressive circumstances under which workers labored and the squalid conditions in which they and their families lived.
This made sense to Keller, and she set out to read all she could on socialism, subscribing to German socialist periodicals printed in Braille, and she asked a friend to visit three times per week to finger spell entire articles from the ''International Socialist Review'' and the ''National Socialist,'' and other readings (such as works by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Karl Kautsky) from the Macys’ home library. “It is no easy and rapid thing to absorb through one’s fingers a book of 50,000 words on economics. But it is a pleasure, and one which I shall enjoy repeatedly until I have made myself acquainted with all the classic socialist authors.”<ref>Helen Keller, "How I Became a Socialist," ''New York Call,''Nov. 3, 1912.</ref> She finished her foundational preparation and officially joined the Socialist party, a fact made public in 1912, but she was a bit vexed about what her disabilities would allow her to do for the movement. Recalling her reading of ''New World for Old,'' however, she renewed her sense of the role she could play in helping realize socialism’s triumph over the political, economic, and social ills of the day. Wells had written that “an immense amount of intellectual work remains to be done for socialism. . . . The battle for socialism is to be fought not simply at the polls and in the market place but at the writing desk and in the study.”<ref>Wells, ''New World for Old,'' 52.</ref>
Keller decided to use her Braille machine and her “voice” for the cause, even though she could not participate in the day-to-day activities of the movement. She spoke and wrote frequently on behalf of workers on strike but was simultaneously “heartily disgusted” with the conservative policies of American Federation of Labor (AFL) leadership.1<ref>Helen Keller, "To the Strikers at Little Falls, N.Y.," ''Solidarity,'' Nov. 21, 1912.</ref> The AFL emphasized organizing mainly skilled white male workers in craft unions; Keller’s reading and thinking led her to admire, instead, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), which advocated industrial unions for all workers regardless of skill, sex, or race. She was particularly attracted to the group’s militant tactics, in her mind an innovative way to push for a new society. Keller was also on the side of the militant drive for woman suffrage—including the use of protests, boycotts, and hunger strikes.  
==By Choice or by Coercion?==

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