Library Collections: Document: Full Text

How I Became A Socialist

From: Out Of The Dark
Creator: Helen Keller (author)
Date: 1920
Publisher: Doubleday, Page & Company, New York
Source: Available at selected libraries

Next Page   All Pages 

Page 1:


*A letter printed in the New York Call, November 3, 1912


For several months my name and Socialism have appeared often together in the newspapers. A friend tells me that I have shared the front pages with baseball, Mr. Roosevelt, and the New York police scandal. The association does not make me altogether happy, but, on the whole, I am glad that many people are interested in me and in the educational achievements of my teacher, Mrs. Macy. Even notoriety may be turned to beneficent uses, and I rejoice if the disposition of the newspapers to record my activities results in bringing more often into their columns the word Socialism. In the future I hope to write about Socialism, and to justify in some measure the great amount of publicity which has been accorded to me and my opinions. So far I have written little and said little about the subject. I have written a few letters, notably one to Comrade Fred Warren which was printed in the Appeal to Reason. I have talked to some reporters, one of whom, Mr. Ireland, of the New York World, made a very flattering report and gave fully and fairly what I said. I have never been in Schenectady. I have never met Mayor Lunn. I have never had a letter from him, but he has sent kind messages to me through Mr. Macy. Owing to Mrs. Macy's illness, whatever plans I had to join the workers in Schenectady have been abandoned.


On such negative and relatively insignificant matter have been written many editorials in the capitalist press and in the Socialist press. The clippings fill a drawer. I have not read a quarter of them, and I doubt if I shall ever read them all. If on such a small quantity of fact so much comment has followed, what will the newspapers do if I ever set to work in earnest to write and talk in behalf of Socialism? For the present I should like to make a statement of my position and correct some false reports and answer some criticisms which seem to me unjust.


First -- How did I become a Socialist? By reading. The first book I read was Wells's "New Worlds for Old." I read it on Mrs. Macy's recommendation. She was attracted by its imaginative quality, and hoped that its electric style might stimulate and inspire me. When she gave me the book, she was not a Socialist and she is not a Socialist now. Perhaps she will be one before Mr. Macy and I have done arguing with her.


Mr. Wells led to others. I asked for more books on the subject, and Mr. Macy selected some from his library of Socialist literature. He did not urge them on me. He merely complied with my request for more. I do not find him inclined to instruct me about Socialism; indeed, I have often complained to him that he did not talk to me about it as much as I should like.


My reading has been limited and slow. I take a German bimonthly Socialist periodical printed in braille for the blind. (Our German Comrades are ahead of us in many respects.) I have also in German braille Kautsky's discussion of the Erfurt Programme. The other Socialist literature that I have read has been spelled into my hand by a friend who comes three times a week to read to me whatever I choose to have read. The periodical which I have most often requested her lively fingers to communicate to my eager ones is the National Socialist. She gives the titles of the articles and I tell her when to read on and when to omit. I have also had her read to me from the International Socialist Review articles the titles of which sounded promising. Manual spelling takes time. It is no easy and rapid thing to absorb through one's fingers a book of fifty-thousand 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.


In the light of the foregoing I wish to comment on a piece about me which was printed in the Common Cause and reprinted in the Live Issue, two anti-Socialist publications. Here is a quotation from that piece:


"For twenty-five years Miss Keller's teacher and constant companion has been Mrs. John Macy, formerly of Wrentham, Mass. Both Mr. and Mrs. Macy are enthusiastic Marxist propagandists, and it is scarcely surprising that Miss Keller, depending upon this lifelong friend for her most intimate knowledge of life, should have imbibed such opinions."


Mr. Macy may be an enthusiastic Marxist propagandist, though I am sorry to say he has not shown much enthusiasm in propagating his Marxism through my fingers. Mrs. Macy is not a Marxist, not a Socialist. Therefore, what the Common Cause says about her is not true. The editor must have invented that, made it out of whole cloth, and if that is the way his mind works, it is no wonder that he is opposed to Socialism. He has not sufficient sense of fact to be a Socialist or anything else intellectually worth while.


Consider another quotation from the same article. The headline reads:


"Schenectady Reds Are Advertising; Using Helen Keller, the Blind Girl, to Receive Publicity."


Then the article begins:

Next Page

Pages:  1  2  3    All Pages