Helen Keller – Suffragist; a Steampunk Feminist Perspective

Helen Keller

When women vote men will no longer be compelled to guess at their desires–and guess wrong. Women will be able to protect themselves from man-made laws that are antagonistic to their interests. Some persons like to imagine that man’s chivalrous nature will constrain him to act humanely toward woman and protect her rights. Some men do protect some women. We demand that all women have the right to protect themselves and relieve man of this feudal responsibility. – Helen Keller

I was taught at school all about Helen Keller, the brave woman who overcame her physical disabilities with the strength of her mind and will. However, my school didn’t mention what Keller got up to for the rest of her life. She became a radical, a suffragist and a pacifist.

Helen Keller openly advocated women’s suffrage, and was opposed to child labour and capital punishment, and believed that poverty was at the root of all inequity. Keller, who was born in Alabama, angered her family by sending a $100 donation and a letter of support to the NAACP. She even joined the Socialist Party. In an era when talking about sexual activity was considered most unladylike, she was a supporter of birth control to give women some control over their reproductive capabilities.

An organization of women recently wanted to obtain a welfare measure from a Legislature in New York. A petition signed by 5,000 women was placed before the chairman of a committee that was to report on the bill. He said it was a good bill and ought to pass. After the women had waited a reasonable time, they sent up a request to know what had become of the bill. The chairman said he did not know anything about it. He was reminded of the petition that had been brought to him signed by 5,000 women. “Oh,” replied the chairman, “a petition signed by 5,000 women is not worth the paper it is written on. Get five men to sign and we’ll do something about it.” That is one reason we demand the vote–we want 5,000 women to count for more than five men. – Helen Keller

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Filed under Historical Personage, History, Steampunk, Steampunk Feminist, Suffragettes

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