Becoming Helen Keller

Examine the life and legacy of Helen Keller: author, advocate, lecturer, force for social justice, and human rights pioneer.

Photo of Helen Keller
American Masters
Premiere Date
October 19, 2021

Straight Ahead Pictures, Inc.

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The Film

Helen Keller’s life is paradoxically well known and little understood. Her loss of hearing and sight at 19 months old and her learning to communicate, starting at age 6 with teacher Anne Sullivan, is a familiar story. And yet, the scope of Keller’s work as a social justice advocate and media celebrity on the lecture circuit, in film, Vaudeville, journalism, and politics, is much less well known. Through rarely seen photographs, archival film clips, and interviews with historians, scholars, and disability rights advocates, Becoming Helen Keller explores how she used her wit and celebrity to raise awareness of the issues that mattered most to her: income equality for workers, political equality for women, and social equity for people with disabilities and the disenfranchised poor. As one of the most famous women with a disability in the 20th century, Helen Keller crossed traditional boundaries of class, gender, race, and ability. Although she lived to be 87, having become an accomplished writer and activist, Keller is still most readily remembered as the child at the water pump. Becoming Helen Keller revisits Keller’s career and delves into her deep commitment to social justice. In a long life peppered with controversies and achievements, Becoming Helen Keller paints a compelling portrait of a humane and celebrated American figure.