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Anne Sullivan Macy

Johanna "Anne" Sullivan was born in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts, on April 14, 1866, to Irish immigrants. Her early years were filled with difficulties, as her family was separated due to various illnesses. Anne, who suffered from trachoma, was sent to the state poorhouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, on February 22, 1876.

The four years Anne spent at Tewksbury would prove to have a profound impact on the life she strove to make for herself. On October 7, 1880, Anne entered the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind in Boston. After several eye operations, Anne quickly progressed in school, gaining the respect of her teachers and fellow students. In 1886 Anne graduated from Perkins as the valedictorian of her class.

Anne was then asked to travel to Tuscumbia, Alabama, to become the teacher of a deaf-blind child, Helen Keller. At first, Anne had her doubts, but after studying the accounts of Laura Bridgman's education, she made her way to Tuscumbia in March of 1887.

As soon as Anne arrived at the Keller family estate, she began to spell into Helen's hand using the manual alphabet. A breakthrough was made on April 5, 1887, when Anne was able to show Helen the connection between the letters W-A-T-E-R and the liquid that was rushing from the family's well pump. Anne then acted as Helen's educator for the next thirteen years, beginning with spelling words into Helen's hand and working through the years to prepare Helen for higher education.

In 1900, Anne accompanied Helen to Radcliffe college, where Helen was the first deaf-blind individual to receive a bachelor of arts degree. During their years at Radcliffe, Anne met John Albert Macy, the editor of Helen's autobiography, The Story of My Life. After falling in love, Anne and John were wed on May 2, 1905. Their marriage was not a perfect one, and by the end of 1914, it was considered to be over, even though they never officially divorced. John Albert Macy died in 1932.

Anne spent the next period of her life living in Forest Hills, New York in a household she established with Helen. In 1924, both women began to work for the American Foundation for the Blind as advocates, counselors, and fundraisers. In 1927, Nella Braddy became Anne's biographer. It was to Nella that Anne revealed the details of her past, that until this time had been kept from Helen. This biography, Anne Sullivan Macy was published in 1933. On October 20, 1936, at the age of 70, Anne died in Forest Hills. Her ashes were placed in the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, after a funeral in New York City. Anne was the first female to be offered this distinction.

Related Resources

Braddy, Nella. (1933). Anne Sullivan Macy. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co.

Davidson, Margaret. (1965). Helen Keller's teacher. New York: Scholastic Book Services.

Dunnahoo, Terry. (1970). Annie Sullivan: A portrait. Illinois: Reilly & Lee Books.

Gibson, William. (1960). The miracle worker. New York: Atheneum Publishers.

Gibson, William. (1983). Monday after the miracle. New York: Atheneum Publishers.
Hickok, Lorena. (1961). The touch of magic. New York: Dodd Mead Publishers.

Keller, Helen. (1955). Teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy. New York: Doubleday & Co.

Lash, Joseph. (1980). Helen & teacher: The story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy.
New York: Delacorte Press.

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