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June 27: Helen Keller’s Birthday


It’s Helen Keller’s birthday. Born in 1880, Helen lost her eyesight and hearing as a small child yet still managed to become an academic, author and internationally-recognized advocate for the disabled. Her name is practically synonymous with perseverance in the face of towering odds. Now, you’re probably thinking, this revered woman, this icon who has passed well into the pantheon of cultural sainthood, was most likely a full-on teetotaler. And you’d be wrong. She drank, and I don’t mean a glass of wine with dinner. She drank martinis, cold and strong. At least a couple each night, sometimes much more. It’s how she ended her day. She called champagne “bottled sunshine,” which puts a new spin on her famous quote, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”¬†When she reached her 60s, her doctors and minders told her to quit drinking, “for her health,” and she told them to go stuff it. She would drink on and live to the ripe old age of 87. True story: Helen had her own particular system of drinking martinis: she would never let go of her glass while there was something in it, and if someone offered her a refill, she would immediately go bottoms up. That’s how Helen Keller rolled.