Black and white photos side by side: Helen Keller hamming it up with makeup brush in her vaudeville dressing room and Godin onstage doing rimshots with her little drum in a sparkly dress and long fingerless gloves.

11 Helen Keller in Vaudeville and in Love (TPE Hyperlinked Endnotes)

In the previous endnotes, “The Tap, Tapping of Blind Travelers,” we spent time with the science of echolocation and the poetry and practicality of the tapping cane as well as a little of the history of the white cane. You may have learned in that chapter about James Joyce’s blindness for the very first time, but in this chapter, we  spend time with one of the most famous disabled authors of all time: Helen Keller, but with attention to little-known and discussed aspects of her life, namely her years performing on the vaudeville circuit and her squashed love affair.

Godin also discusses her solo performance The Star of Happiness, inspired by Keller’s vaudeville years as well as the challenges facing blind actors and the movement to hire disabled actors to play disabled characters. It seems like a gimme, but we’ve still got a ways to go on that representation front…

“Helen Keller in Vaudeville and In Love,” Endnotes

  1. Bits of this chapter were reworked from “How Helen Keller’s Stint on Vaudeville Inspired Me as an Artist.”
  2. Nielsen, The Radical Lives of Helen Keller,
  3. Herrmann, Helen Keller, 227–28.
  4. Keller, Midstream, 209–10.
  5. Keller, Midstream, 211–12.
  6. Keller, Midstream,
  7. Keller, Midstream, 210–11.
  8. Keller, Midstream,
  9. Fitzgerald, “ ‘See’ Actress Marilee Talkington on What It’s Like to Be Legally Blind in Hollywood.”
  10. Fitzgerald, “ ‘See’ Actress Marilee Talkington on What It’s Like to Be Legally Blind in Hollywood.”
  11. Fitzgerald, “ ‘See’ Actress Marilee Talkington on What It’s Like to Be Legally Blind in Hollywood.”
  12. I elaborated on this theme in a blog post on my website: ‘She Doesn’t Look Blind to Me’: The Blind Actor Phenomenon.”
  13. For his views on promoting oral methods (over sign language) in deaf education and eugenics regarding intermarriage, Bell is widely reviled in the Deaf See, for example, “Alexander Graham Bell’s Controversial Views on Deafness.”
  14. Keller, Midstream,
  15. Keller, Midstream,
  16. Keller, Midstream,
  17. Keller, Midstream,
  18. Keller, Midstream,
  19. Keller, Midstream,
  20. Keller, Midstream,
  21. Herrmann, Helen Keller,
  22. Herrmann, Helen Keller,
  23. Herrmann, Helen Keller,
  24. Girma, Haben,

The Star of Happiness: Helen Keller on Vaudeville?!

Helen Keller: Speaking of Vaudeville…

“I can conceive that in time the spectacle might have grown stale. I might have come to hear the personal confessions of my fellow actors without emotion, and to regard the details of wild parties and excursions with impatience. But I shall always be glad I went into vaudeville, not only for the excitement of it, but also for the opportunities it gave me to study life.”

–Helen Keller, Midstream

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