Vancouver Was Awesome: Helen Keller, 1921

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A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.

Ninety-two years ago this week, Helen Keller was in town for a week-long speaking gig at the Orpheum Theatre, along with her longtime teacher and mentor, Anne Sullivan Macy, the “miracle worker” who devised techniques for Keller to engage with a world she could neither see nor hear. With Macy’s help, Keller became a well-known and outspoken public figure, the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, and the author of twelve published books and several articles. Macy was modest about her role in Keller’s success, but Keller recognized Macy’s importance, as she explained to the Vancouver Sun:

My mind was a trackless desert until Mrs. Macy explored it and with the light of her heart led me by a new way back to the world of living men, and she taught me to be human.

Over her life, Helen Keller converted to Christianity, became a Wobbly and advocate of socialism, and counted among her many admirers Mark Twain and Charlie Chaplin.

Back stage at the Orpheum, Keller lit up when a reporter brought up her relationship with Chaplin. “Oh, yes, Charlie Chaplin!,” she exclaimed.

He is so droll, his moustache, his shoes, his little hat, and his trousers! They are all so funny. Sometimes he takes me to his studio and has a reel run off, explaining it to me as it is shown. I have laughed until I cried over his funny antics. Then he says “Helen, do you see how funny it is?” when I am nearly dead from laughing.

Source: Helen Keller and Ann Sullivan Macy, 1930, via transformingArt on youtube.

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