From an early age Helen developed a profound sympathy for the underdog that would eventually manifest itself in a commitment to socialism. Evidence of Helen's sympathy for the poor can be found in The Story of My Life, where she angrily laments their wretched condition.
In one particular passage she describes her experience of visiting the "narrow, dirty streets" where the poor live, and growing angry at the fact that people should be forced to live in such appalling conditions while the rich get to live in nice big houses. Helen goes on to draw attention to the physical effects that wealth and poverty can have on people. Whereas the rich can become "strong and beautiful," living in their fine houses, the poor often grow "ugly, withered, and cringing" in their "hideous, sunless tenements." Helen understands, in a way that many people of her time did not, the close link between poverty and physical illness and disability.