Before the lines were drawn, before the anti-vaccine movement, and definitely long before the discredited Dr. Andrew Wakefield who embellished the research that connected autism with the MMR vaccine, there was Helen Keller.

In 1882, at a year and a half old, Helen was struck with a serious viral disease. Research suggests possibly scarlet fever, meningitis or even measles, since at that time Alabama was going through a very serious measles outbreak. Helen Keller survived the illness, but emerged deaf, mute and blind.

My daughter and I were at a yard sale a few years ago and came across a book about Helen Keller. Her story had such an impact on us, it made me cry.

Despite her disabilities or perhaps because of them, she fought tirelessly for social change and equality and campaigned for vaccines every chance she got. In particular, she felt strongly for children who were struck with blindness as a result of preventable diseases. Measles was one of them.

More than 90 years ago Helen Keller said this to her audience as she asked for their help:

Will you not help me hasten the day when there shall be no preventable blindness; no little deaf, blind child untaught; no blind man or woman unaided?

She was talking of Measles. Yes, the same viral disease once thought to be eradicated that has reawakened in parts of North America. Measles is one of the most contagious viral diseases and a major cause of vision loss in many places around the world. Helen Keller knew it could be prevented with a safe and inexpensive vaccine and tirelessly campaigned to encourage parents to vaccine their children. This was in the 1920’s.

The amazing Helen Keller along with her teacher, Anne Sullivan has been celebrated across the world, from the United States to Japan. She started by learning the finger alphabet at age 7. Her intelligence and resourcefulness drove her to learn English literature, French, German, Latin, Greek, History, and Mathematics. Helen grew up to go to Radcliffe College and became a prolific author, an internationally famous speaker and a fierce advocate for the disabled.

So if you were to listen to one celebrity today, please let it not be Jenny McCarthy or a disgraced doctor who can’t even be called Dr. anymore. Listen to Helen Keller.


Originally published on

Featured image credit: KetchupMoms


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