Helen Keller and the Hoovers

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed June 27th Helen Keller Day in America.  This proclamation coincided with the 100th anniversary of Helen Keller’s birth.  It was an apt way to celebrate the life of this remarkable woman.  Keller lost her hearing and vision at a young age, but was able to have a long career as an author, lecturer and social activist.  Keller is remembered today as an advocate for the blind and deaf, but during her lifetime Keller championed many other causes—suffrage , socialism and the American Civil Liberties Union among them.

Given the overlap of their lives, it is not surprising that Helen Keller met the Hoovers.  She visited the Hoovers at the White House when attending the World Conference for the Blind in 1932.  The next crossing of their paths was not sanguine. When Lou Hoover passed away in January 1944, Keller sent a touching letter to Herbert Hoover. She sent this as a ‘token of heartfelt sympathy in the loss of your beautiful life companion and sharer of your manifold activities.  The youth of America too has lost a noble friend and counsellor whom no one can ever replace.’ Keller continued: ‘No words may bring you comfort now… [but] the glowing radiance of her memory will sustain you.’

Files here indicate that Herbert Hoover handwritten reply to Keller went out January 25, 1944.  Assuming a woman of Keller’s stature would have left archives of her own, I did further research to see if I could find Hoover’s response.  I was chagrined to discover that the Helen Keller archives burned on September 11, 2001.

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