jump to article
AFB American Foundation
for the Blind
TM  
   
  AFB Talking Book Exhibit

Women milling around a hall filled with blind-made products during Miami's First Educational Week for the Blind, March 12, 1933.

View Larger Image and Description

Helen Keller and Talking Books
Helen's Initial Opposition to Talking Books

The story of Talking Books and Helen Keller is an interesting one. Keller was initially opposed to the Talking Book program, but she was ultimately crucial to its successful outcome.

In 1924 Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan Macy were hired by the American Foundation for the Blind to raise money for the organization's work on behalf of people who are blind and visually impaired. Her contribution was primarily in the form of the Helen Keller Endowment Fund, which raised funds through her speaking engagements and tours around the country. Keller was a proponent of education and strongly believed in providing people who are blind and visually impaired with the tools to educate themselves—as she had done so successfully for herself.

In 1935 when AFB began its concerted effort to find funding for the manufacture of Talking Book records, Helen opposed the endeavor. She wrote the following to a personal friend, Walter G. Holmes, at the Matilda Ziegler Magazine in February 1935:

... I was not in sympathy with a movement which would detract from the completion of the Endowment Fund.

Furthermore, I told them [AFB] I thought the blind could live without talking-books and radios at a time when millions of people are out of work and in the bread-line. Last winter in Pennsylvania alone five hundred blind people ate the bread of charity! Will radios and talking-books take the place of food, shelter and clothing? Naturally I am not willing to divert the attention of the public to talking-books while more urgent needs of the sightless demand first service.

Helen also singled out the World Conference for the Blind in 1931 and the new braille writer as other examples of wasteful efforts, and instead voiced support for deaf-blind initiatives and programs that she saw as practical, such as the Educational Weeks for the Blind (a photograph of which is displayed on this page):

... they are one of our activities that actually reach the blind themselves and place them in the way of solving the problems of daily life. They are not as showy as talking-books, but they yield a rich crop of genuine service and happiness.

Right-Arrow Go To Next Frame
Helen's Initial Opposition to Talking Books
Mutual Admiration
A Change of Mind


AFB Talking Book Galleries:
Early History
Early History
Partnerships
Partnerships
Helen Keller
Helen Keller
Operations Begin
Operations Begin
Technology
Technology
Narrators
Narrators

View All Media Galleries    Right-Arrow Go To Next Gallery   Left-Arrow Go To Previous Gallery


75 Years of AFB and Talking Books

Change Colors | Home
Early History | Partnerships | Helen Keller | Operations Begin | Technology | Narrators

Images and content are copyright © 2009, American Foundation for the Blind.
For information on reproducing material from our web site, please contact afbinfo@afb.net.