Which activist was one of many founders of the American Civil Liberties Union?

And the answer: Helen Keller.    
Photo credit: public domain. 

Disability rights activist Helen Keller was a co-founder of the ACLU along with Roger Baldwin, Crystal Eastman, and others. She also worked tirelessly for the American Foundation for the Blind for 40 years until her passing in 1968.

Helen Keller’s efforts to make the world a more fair and accessible place continue to resonate well into the 20th and 21st centuries. After losing her sight and hearing at just two years old, Keller became mute and was only able to communicate with around 60 hand gestures that she used with her family. However, the system was limiting for Keller, and the young girl grew frustrated with her inability to express herself more thoroughly. With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, Keller learned a new way to communicate: finger spelling. This process included etching letters, words and even phrases into each other’s hands. It stuck, and after just a few months of working with Sullivan, Keller’s vocabulary had increased to hundreds of words and simple sentences.

Keller continued her work with Sullivan for the remaining 49 years of Sullivan’s life. Alongside her faithful teacher and friend, Keller was able to complete grade school with high marks and a gaze set on college. Luckily, her story and notoriety had spread beyond her community, and Keller’s goal to go to college was ultimately achieved when an inspired executive at Standard Oil, Henry H. Rogers, decided to fund her tuition to Radcliffe College. Keller graduated cum laude from Radcliffe college in 1904, at 24 years old.

Together with Sullivan, Keller penned her first book just one year later: The Story of My Life. The autobiography spanned her experience as a deaf-blind child up through her time in college, and was later picked up as a 1957 television drama called The Miracle Worker. The content was adapted once again to become a hit Broadway production in 1959.

Meanwhile, Keller avidly pursued social activist work in the United States and overseas. As she traveled the world to learn more about the needs of accessibility activism, Keller became a well-known lecturer and educator—even going so far as to testify before congress on behalf of the welfare of blind individuals.

During her lifetime, Keller received many honors in recognition of her accomplishments. The most notable of Keller’s accolades are the Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal in 1936, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964, and election to the Women's Hall of Fame in 1965. Learn more about the life and legacy of Helen Keller here.


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