ALABAMA’S SURPRISINGLY PROGRESSIVE ATTITUDE…. If you’ve ever been to the Capitol, you may have noticed that every state sends two statues as part of the National Statuary Hall Collection. Yesterday, Alabama unveiled a new one.

Republican and Democratic leaders agreed on at least one thing today: A statue of Helen Keller better suits the halls of Congress than one of a Confederate officer.

Ms. Keller, depicted as a seven-year-old standing over her famous water pump in a statue unveiled in the Capitol Rotunda this morning, is the first child ever to be represented in the Capitol’s collection. The bronze likeness replaces a statue of former Representative Jabez Curry, a Confederate officer from Alabama, who was once well known for advocating for free public education.

Given Alabama’s political leanings, it was a pleasant surprise to see the state honor Helen Keller this way. She was, after all, a well known and unapologetic socialist.

Miss Keller was developing a largeness of spirit on social issues, partly as a result of walks through industrial slums, partly because of her special interest in the high incidence of blindness among the poor and partly because of her conversations with John Macy, Miss Sullivan’s husband, a social critic. She was further impelled toward Socialism in 1908 when she read H.G. Wells’s “New Worlds for Old.”

These influences, in turn, led her to read Marx and Engels in German Braille, and in 1909 she joined the Socialist party in Massachusetts. For many years she was an active member, writing incisive articles in defense of Socialism, lecturing for the party, supporting trade unions and strikes and opposing American entry into World War I. She was among those Socialists who welcomed the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917.

Although Miss Keller’s Socialist activities diminished after 1921, when she decided that her chief life work was to raise funds for the American Foundation for the Blind, she was always responsive to Socialist and Communist appeals for help in causes involving oppression or exploitation of labor. As late as 1957 she sent a warm greeting to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the Communist leader, then in jail on charges of violating the Smith Act.

So, one of the most conservative states in the union has unveiled a statue in the Capitol honoring one of the most famous American socialists in history.

Has Glenn Beck heard about this? Has he launched a boycott against Alabama yet?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.