Anne Sullivan

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Anne Sullivan
Portrait of Anne Sullivan, circa 1887.jpg
Sullivan circa 1887
BornJohanna Mansfield Sullivan
(1866-04-14)April 14, 1866
Feeding Hills
Agawam, MA
DiedOctober 20, 1936(1936-10-20) (aged 70)
Forest Hills, Queens
New York City NY
Spouse(s)John Albert Macy (1905–1932)
 
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Anne Sullivan
Portrait of Anne Sullivan, circa 1887.jpg
Sullivan circa 1887
BornJohanna Mansfield Sullivan
(1866-04-14)April 14, 1866
Feeding Hills
Agawam, MA
DiedOctober 20, 1936(1936-10-20) (aged 70)
Forest Hills, Queens
New York City NY
Spouse(s)John Albert Macy (1905–1932)

Johanna "Anne" Mansfield Sullivan Macy (April 14, 1866–October 20, 1936), better known as Anne Sullivan, was an American teacher, best known for being the instructor and companion of Helen Keller.[1]

Early life

Sullivan was born on April 14, 1866 in Feeding Hills, Agawam, Massachusetts. According to her baptismal certificate, her name at birth was Johanna Mansfield Sullivan; however, she was called Anne or Annie from birth.[2] Her parents were Thomas and Alice (née Cloesy) Sullivan, Irish immigrants who reportedly couldn't read and were almost penniless.[2] Alice died in 1874, probably from tuberculosis.[3] Anne had three other siblings:[4] James, (born 1869), Ellen (born 1867[3]), and Mary. After the death of their mother, Anne and her younger brother, James ("Jimmie") were sent to an almshouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts (today part of Tewksbury Hospital). Anne spent seven years there.[2] In 1880, blind from an untreated trachoma, she was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind.

Education

Some teachers at Perkins recognized Sullivan's intelligence and tamed her headstrong ways. Michael Anagnos, director of the Institute, then located in South Boston, encouraged her to tutor younger students. She also underwent eye surgery that partially restored her vision. While at Perkins, Anne befriended and learned the manual alphabet from Laura Bridgman, herself a graduate of Perkins and the first person with deafblindness to be educated. Sullivan graduated from Perkins School for the Blind in 1886, when she was 20 years old, as the valedictorian of her class and gave the valedictory address.[5]

Career

Anagnos was approached to suggest a teacher for a deaf-blind girl, Helen Keller. He asked Sullivan, herself visually impaired and only 20 years old, to become her instructor. Sullivan arrived at Keller's house in the small Alabama town of Tuscumbia on March 3, 1887. It was the beginning of a 49-year relationship, Sullivan evolving first into governess, and then companion.[6]

As soon as she arrived at the Kellers' house in Tuscumbia, Alabama, as a young instructor from the north, she quarreled with Helen's parents about the Civil War and over the fact that the Kellers used to own slaves.[7] She met six-year-old Helen and immediately began to teach her to communicate, by spelling words into her hand, beginning with "d‑o‑l‑l" for the doll that she had brought her as a present.[6] Keller was frustrated at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it. Her big breakthrough in communication came the next month. She realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of water. She then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world. As lifelong companions, Sullivan and Keller continually lived, worked, and traveled together.[6]

Next, she strongly encouraged Helen's parents to send the child to the Perkins School for the Blind where she could have an appropriate teaching. With their approval, Sullivan brought Helen to Boston in 1888 and stayed with her there. Anne continued to teach her bright protégée, who soon became famous for her remarkable progress. With the help of Michael Anagnos, head of the school, Helen Keller became the figure of Perkins School for the Blind and brought funds and donations, making it the most famous and sought-after school for the blind in the country.

When Helen graduated from Perkins, Anne followed her to New York City, where they frequented the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf. In this institution, they tried to acquire the skills of lip-reading and oral speech.[8]

Personal life

Helen Keller with Anne Sullivan vacationing at Cape Cod in July 1888

On May 3, 1905, Anne Sullivan married a Harvard University instructor and literary critic, John Albert Macy (1877–1932), who had helped Keller with her publications. He moved in with Keller and Sullivan, and the three lived together. However, within a few years, the marriage began to disintegrate. By 1914 they had separated, though Macy was listed as living as a "lodger" with Sullivan and Keller in the 1920 U.S. Census.[9] Sullivan and Macy never officially divorced. In the early years after their separation, Macy wrote and asked for money, and as the years progressed, Macy appears to have faded from Sullivan's life. Sullivan never remarried.[10]

Awards

In 1932, Helen and Anne were each awarded honorary fellowships from the Educational Institute of Scotland. They also were awarded honorary degrees from Temple University.[11]

Death

Sullivan had been seriously visually impaired for almost all of her life, but by 1935 she was completely blind in both eyes. She died on October 20, 1936, aged 70, in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, after falling into a coma. Sullivan died with Keller holding her hand.[12] When Keller died in 1968, her ashes were placed in the Washington National Cathedral next to those of Sullivan.[citation needed]

Media representation

Anne Sullivan is an integral character in The Miracle Worker, by William Gibson, originally produced for television, where she was portrayed by Teresa Wright.[13] The play then moved to Broadway, and was later produced as a 1962 feature film. Both the Broadway play and 1962 film featured Anne Bancroft in the Sullivan role.[14] Patty Duke—who played Helen Keller on Broadway and in the 1962 film version—later played Sullivan in a 1979 television remake.[15] Alison Elliott portrayed her in a 2000 television movie.[16] Alison Pill played Sullivan on Broadway in the short-lived 2010 revival of The Miracle Worker, with Abigail Breslin as Keller.

Both Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke won Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress for their roles as Sullivan and Keller in the 1962 film version.

References

  1. ^ Herrmann, Dorothy. Helen Keller: A Life, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1998, p. 35; ISBN 0-679-44354-1
  2. ^ a b c Anne Sullivan profile at www.afb.org
  3. ^ a b Nielsen, Kim E. (2009). Beyond the Miracle Worker: The Remarkable Life of Anne Sullivan Macy and Her Extraordinary Friendship with Helen Keller. Beacon Press. pp. 5, 7. ISBN 978-0-8070-5046-0. "1936 death of Alice Sullivan ... stories indicate she had tuberculosis" 
  4. ^ 1870 United States Federal Census
  5. ^ Sullivan, Anne. "Valedictory Address". Valedictory Address. Anne Sullivan/Perkins History Museum. Retrieved 22 Nov 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c The life of Helen Keller, Royal National Institute of Blind People, last updated August 14, 2012. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  7. ^ Kim E. Nielsen, The radical lives of Helen Keller, Year: 2007, c2004, New York University Press
  8. ^ Kim E. Nielsen, The radical lives of Helen Keller c. 2004, New York University Press
  9. ^ In the 1920 census, Helen Keller was 38 years old and listed as head of her household in Queens, New York. Anne, age 52, is living with her, listed as a private teacher of Helen. John Macy, age 44, is also listed as living with them, as a "lodger", with the occupation of writer/author.
  10. ^ Excerpt from Anne Macy's bio re her marital history
  11. ^ Herrmann, pp. 252–53
  12. ^ Herrmann, p. 255.
  13. ^ Teresa Wright (I) at the Internet Movie Database
  14. ^ Anne Bancroft (I) at the Internet Movie Database
  15. ^ Patty Duke at the Internet Movie Database
  16. ^ Alison Elliott (I) at the Internet Movie Database

. Tewksbury Almshouse patient records

Further reading

External links