Helen Keller
A Life in American History
by Meredith Eliassen
September 2021, 278pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-7463-5
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7464-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

During World War II, Helen Keller toured military hospitals to visit disabled service people, many of whom thought she was dead. With a kind touch and words of encouragement, Keller became the most healing part of their rehabilitation.

This book provides new and exciting interpretations of Helen Keller's unparalleled life as 'the most famous American woman in the world' during her time, celebrating the 141st anniversary of her birth.

Helen Keller: A Life in American History explores Keller’s life, career as a lobbyist, and experiences as a deaf-blind woman within the context of her relationship with teacher-guardian-promoter Anne Sullivan Macy and overarching social history. The book tells the dual story of a pair struggling with respective disabilities and financial hardship and the oppressive societal expectations set for women during Keller’s lifetime. This narrative is perhaps the most comprehensive study of Helen Keller’s role in the development of support services specifically related to the deaf-blind, as delineated as different from the blind.

Readers will learn about Keller’s challenges and choices as well as how her public image often eclipsed her personal desires to live independently. Keller’s deaf-blindness and hard-earned but limited speech did not define her as a human being as she explored the world of ideas and wove those ideas into her writing, lobbying for funds for the American Federation for the Blind and working with disabled activists and supporters to bring about practical help during times of tremendous societal change.


  • Presents well-researched, factual material in an easy-to-understand writing style about a complex, iconic American woman, Helen Keller, who inspired generations of people worldwide because of her lifelong quest for knowledge and her ability to communicate ideas despite being deaf-blind
  • Humanizes and demonstrates the diversity of the deaf-blind community, which has historically been the smallest minority in the United States at less than 1% of the population
  • Positions Keller in the panorama of American history, economics, politics, and popular culture, challenging the existing narrative created by her teacher-guardian-promoter Anne Sullivan Macy
  • Re-envisions Keller within the world of ideas where she experienced and expressed individuality through dialogs constructed from her writings and the work of those who informed her thinking
  • Includes 10 images that provide an intimate look into Keller's personal and public life
Meredith Eliassen, MSLIS, is special collections librarian and university archivist at San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA. She received her MSLIS from Simmons University in Boston, MA, and a BA from San Francisco State University in broadcast communications arts. Eliassen has an interest in local history, folklore, and design. She is a designer for MME Designs (https://mmedesigns.net/) and author of San Francisco State University. She has also contributed to many encyclopedias, including ABC-CLIO's Technical Innovation in American History; Women in American History; American Myths, Legends, and Tall Tales; and Ideas and Movements that Shaped America.

Women Making History

Women Making History is a series of single volume books that examine the lives and historical impact of the most iconic figures in American Women’s history.

Books in the Women Making History series explore the lives and contributions of important women in American history. Each volume goes beyond biographical details to consider historical context and explicitly discuss the world in which the individual lived and worked, the challenges she faced, and her lasting contributions. This approach allows readers to explore not just the life of a particular woman but also her various political, social, cultural, and historical contexts. In addition to chronological chapters, sidebars, a timeline, document excerpts, and a bibliography, an introductory chapter explores the cultural and historical significance of the individual and places her in the overall historical context, as well as how her actions, beliefs, or positions influenced not only women’s history, but history as a whole.


Each title in the series includes:
    • Series foreword
    • Preface
    • Chronological biographical chapters with sidebars
    • Supplemental chapter that explores "Why the Person Matters"
    • Timeline
    • Primary source documents
    • Bibliography
    • About the author
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