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  Anne Sullivan Macy: Miracle Worker

Anne Sullivan Macy, circa 1920

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Trouble at Home and Abroad (1917-1930)
American Foundation for the Blind

In 1924, Anne, Helen, and Polly had the opportunity to work for the American Foundation for the Blind. AFB was founded three years earlier with a mission to represent those in the United States who were blind or visually impaired. Its president and executive director, M. C. Migel, hired Helen and Anne as ambassadors who could draw attention to the young organization. The women's task was to raise funds and advocate for the blind on behalf of AFB. The work suited them. It unleashed Helen's passion as an advocate and provided them with the financial security they needed.

This business relationship was not without friction regarding expectations. During their first year of employment, Anne and Helen set a goal of two million dollars to be raised in six months for the Helen Keller Endowment Fund. By the following summer they were far from their target, as Migel suspected would happen. In June 1925 Anne wrote the following to M. C. Migel:

...we all deplore our failure to come nearer to the goal of our expectations in the matter of raising the Fund, though I now understand that those expectations were naively childish. The idea of raising two million dollars in six months for a new and scarcely heard of organization mocks at commonsense.

I have often tried to project myself in imagination into your mind to get your reaction on the situation with indifferent success. I have never been a capitalist; so I find it difficult to sense what a capitalist's state of mind is when a pet investment yields a negligible dividend. Humanly speaking, you must have felt keenly disappointed sometimes, and asked yourself if such large expenditure was justified by the meager contributions we were sending in;...Right here I wish to say, we have been much impressed by your attitude of patient waiting for results that have not been forthcoming...

Multitudes came to our meetings, listened to our story, dropped a small contribution in the plate and went on their way...it seems to me that the educational value of our work cannot be overestimated. Indeed, it may be that educating the people about the needs and capabilities of the blind is the most important part of our campaign.

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Anne's attitude was far less diplomatic when she later went on the offensive. She was furious when she discovered that campaign monies for the 1926 campaign would go toward securing memberships to the Foundation and not toward the Helen Keller Endowment Fund. In addition, income that she thought they would receive outside of their contract would not be forthcoming. Ultimately, Migel and Anne compromised with certain gifts going to the Endowment Fund, but not before Anne had unleashed her anger:

...your treatment of Helen Keller and me does not confirm the high opinion I had formed of you...While expressing a profound appreciation of our endeavors to raise the Endowment Fund for the Foundation, you bargain with us like a railroad magnate employing stokers or road-menders. When talking business, you apparently have little sense of the nature of the work we are doing for the Foundation, or of anything except securing our labor as cheaply as possible.

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War Blind
Politics
Hollywood
Charlie Chaplin
Vaudeville
A Comic Duo
American Foundation for the Blind
The Three Musketeers
Anne's Vision Deteriorates
Convalescing Abroad


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