Enjoy the only known recording of Anne Sullivan Macy’s voice. Here Annie explains how she taught Helen to speak. This is one of a handful of clips recently re-mastered and digitized, and is part of the American Foundation for the Blind’s (AFB) big push to digitize Helen Keller’s entire archival collection and make it fully accessible to both blind and hearing impaired audiences:

Happy Holidays from AFB!


Male audio description: Words appear in a black and white "Fox Movietone News" film:

How Helen Keller Learned to Talk —
Mrs. Macy and the famous
deaf, dumb and blind pupil
she has taught for years
give you a demonstration.

Female narrator: It is the only existing record of Annie Sullivan’s voice.

Male audio description: Helen and Annie sit on a bench.

Anne Sullivan Macy: When I saw Helen Keller first, she was six years and eight months old. She had been blind and deaf and mute since her 19th month as the result of an illness. She had no way of communicating with those around her except a few imitative signs that she had made for herself. A push meant go and a pull meant come, and so on. She had observed that we did not use the hands when we were talking to each other. And I let her see by putting her hand on my face how we talked with our mouths.

Male audio description: Helen touches Annie’s face.

Anne Sullivan Macy: She felt the vibration of the spoken word. Instantly she spelled "I want to talk with my mouth."

Male audio description: Helen smiles.

Anne Sullivan Macy: That seemed impossible. But after experimenting for a time we found that placing her hand in this position:

Male audio description: She touches Helen’s thumb.

Anne Sullivan Macy: the thumb resting on the throat, right at the larynx; the first finger on the lips; the second on the nose. We found that she could feel the vibration of spoken words. For instance, the throat, she feels the "G" the hard "G," "Ga"

Helen Keller: "Ga"

Anne Sullivan Macy: and on the lips she feels the… and the "K" sound

Helen Keller: "K"

Anne Sullivan Macy: On the lips she feels the "B"

Helen Keller: "Buh"

Anne Sullivan Macy: and the "T" and with the second finger on the nose, the nasal sounds, the "Nn"

Helen Keller: "Nn"

Anne Sullivan Macy: and the "M"

Helen Keller: "Mm"

Male audio description: Her hand rests on Annie’s face

Anne Sullivan Macy: The first word she learned to articulate was the little word "it"

Male audio description: Her finger touches Annie’s moving lips

Anne Sullivan Macy: With the hand in this position, I made the Vowel "i." She felt it, "i"

Male audio transcription: Helen repeats the letters after Anne

Anne Sullivan Macy: Then I made the "T" "T" "T" She feels it with the finger on her lips…on my lips. Then I put the two letters together to form the word: it.

Helen Keller: "it"

Anne Sullivan Macy: And the first word was learned

Male audio description: Annie grins sweetly

Anne Sullivan Macy: After her seventh lesson she was able to speak the sentence word by word "I"

Helen Keller: "I"

Anne Sullivan Macy: "Am"

Helen Keller: "Am"

Anne Sullivan Macy: "Not"

Helen Keller: "Not"

Anne Sullivan Macy: "Dumb"

Helen Keller: "Dumb"

Anne Sullivan Macy: "Now"

Helen Keller: "Now"

Blog Topics