Friday, May 06, 2005

History does have a sense of humor

Helen Keller, a heroine for the disabled, is on the back of the commemorative quarter for Alabama, one of the nation's most conservative states. She was also a member of the Socialist Party, an ardent anti-war feminist, and a founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

You won't hear much about those things at Ivy Green, her childhood home in Tuscumbia. The people there prefer to tell about her father's service in the Confederate army and the water pump where she learned the concept of language as a child.

Auburn University history professor Wayne Flynt provides the necessary context: "She was very politically liberal for her time, and that's what makes her controversial in Alabama today. Does Alabama really want an extremely liberal woman who was a suffragist, who was a pacifist and didn't want to go to war, who attacked big business for child labor?"

Child labor is controversial?


Blogger Conservation Terms said...

Child labor is definitely consroversial. It is not right either. God did not put us on this earth to make slaves of each other.

5:18 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Um, yes. The point was that there's no real controversy over child labor, because I can't imagine anyone, at least in this country, would defend it.

5:30 PM  
Blogger Hanging by the News said...

Man, everybody knows that those children didn't have anything better to do than working in those coal mines.

But in all seriousness, I think the message that Keller's legacy conveys--that the disabled can live full, meaningful lives--overshadows the fact that she may have been more liberal than our conservative-leaning state.

In a society where too many people give up (even when they have it better than their ancestors could have imagined), a historical figure like Keller needs to be promoted to the fullest to show that even in adversity, a man or woman can triumph. It may be a cliched lesson, but it is one that more people need to learn.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous Kathy said...

My brother put it well; he said most people want to freeze Helen Keller at the point where she figured out the sign for water. They don't want to know about the complex woman she became. Too bad.

8:29 PM  
Blogger Susan of LocalTint said...

"They don't want to know about the complex woman she became."

I think you cinched it. Complex women have no place around here, and certainly not on our state's quarter. Now everyone just go back to patronizing the poor little blind woman.

9:12 AM  
Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Actually, child labor IS still a controversy as long as the greedy corporations who own our politicians are still utilizing children of poor nations to further their profits and political agendas... but that's just MY take on it.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

There's no controversy because no one could defend child labor with a straight face in a debate. For there to be a controversy, someone would have to take the opposing side by arguing in favor of child labor. Some corporations may use child labor, but you won't find them arguing publicly that it's the moral thing to do; they'd just prefer you look the other way.

1:00 PM  
Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

Ohhhhhh, my bad. Good point, Alabamian.

11:59 PM  

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