Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Helen Keller and Radio

It seems odd at first that Hellen Keller would have anything to do with radio. She couldn't hear it, being both blind and deaf she was unable to appreciate wireless at all. But Helen Keller once convinced a radio manufacturer to donate 250 radios to blind people. She knew what radio was for. Even if she lacked the direct understanding she understood it's power.

It was 1929 and the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) was donating thousands of radios to visually impaired people. Eventually more than 3,000 radios were distributed. She was a celebrity already and she used it for the cause.

But Helen ended up on radio anyway. In February of 1936 she was interviewed by Rudy Vallee on the Fleischmann Yeast Hour. That ran on the NBC network. She was featured again prominently on March 2nd 1938. The Cavalcade of America program did a biography of her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy. Keller introduced the program. the peice ran in episode # 124 in it's 3rd season on the CBS Network, and was sponsored by DuPont. More here.

In that top picture Helen Keller is the adult in the picture. She is showing ten year old Lillian Switzer how to use a radio with Braille symbols. The picture was taken in 1938, in the Helen Keller Room of AFB's old offices on 16th Street. The tradition is alive today. These days Helen Keller Worldwide (HKW) has been building radio stations in underdeveloped nations. More here.