"The miracle at the water pump" is one of the most misunderstood moments in history. What happened was not a breakthrough for #HelenKeller in learning language. There was already a word for water. But it wasn't English. What Helen learned to do was to perform a stunt.
Annie was attempting the equivalent of forcing #HelenKeller to utter a pentasyllabic word, such as "accommodation" or "laboratory" or "representative," whenever she wanted water. If you're thirsty, say "ideology" or "specificiation" or "liability." It was difficult.
Annie: What is this?

Helen: Manufacturer.

Annie: Good girl! Here, have a cup of cold sweet personality.

Thus the water pump thing is the reverse of what most people believe it means. Instead of a modest step--saying "water"--that represents a major internal breakthrough, it was a more immediately difficult trick and, once pulled off, a much more modest accomplishment. #HelenKeller

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More from @johnleeclark

21 Oct
--serve as superintendent of a school for the Deaf and the Blind, found and edit magazines, become a nun, be thrown in jail for not responding to commands from police, be wrongfully instiutionalized, be sterlized against their will, sue a company for stealing their invention--
--and marry. Not just marry, but marrying each other, two #DeafBlind people vowing to face a distantist world together. Multiple DB-DB couples during the time #HelenKeller tried but failed to elope with a hearing-sighted man. She was brave to do so, but others were still braver.
It's hard to stop listing #DeafBlind doings. Be found guilty of treason by a show trial! Flee the Hapsburgs' secret police! Or humler tasks, such as patiently saving money from making brooms to buy a house. But my point remains: #HelenKeller was not a wonder.
Read 7 tweets
21 Oct
Another historical misunderstanding surrounding #HelenKeller is that she is this one-of-a-kind wonder, the first or only #DeafBlind person to do or be this and that, someone you cannot compare anyone with. The relentless erasure of other DeafBlind stories creates this illusion.
In the public consciousness, related to #DeafBlind history, #HelenKeller is a statue in the middle of a desert, with Laura Bridgman off to the distance. In reality, she was one of many DeafBlind people crawling all over the place, doing similar things.
A #DeafBlind man graduated from university five years before #HelenKeller famously became the "first" DeafBlind person to do so. She wanted very much to be married but couldn't swing it, while DeafBlind folks had already been marrying and having families for over a century.
Read 6 tweets

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