The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

Children in Wartime

How was Helen Keller affected by her childhood in the rural South?

Born in June 1880, Helen Keller was not a Civil War child; the war was over fifteen years before she was born. In her youth she could not help but be affected, however, by the war’s aftermath. Her father, who was the editor of the local newspaper, served as a captain in the Confederate Army. Her maternal grandfather was originally from New England, but he served as a Confederate, rising to the rank of colonel. And, perhaps most importantly, Helen grew up in the post-Civil War South, a place nearly defined by what had happened a generation earlier.

Her struggle with deafness and dumbness—which arrived after an attack of scarlet fever at the age of two—definitely helped Helen Keller to identify with the weak and underprivileged. It may also added to her knowledge, firsthand, of a society that was practically prostrate in the years that followed the Civil War. Throughout life, Helen Keller was willing to speak up for unpopular causes; in the First World War she became unpopular for speaking out against American involvement.


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