Anne Sullivan

Biography of Anne Sullivan

Johanna "Anne" Mansfield Sullivan Macy (April 14, 1866 – October 20, 1936), best known as Anne Sullivan, was an Irish-American teacher best known as the instructor and companion of Helen Keller.

Anne Sullivan graduated from Perkins School for the Blind in 1886 when she was 20 years old as the Valedictorian of her class.

Anne Sullivan arrived at Keller's house in the small Alabama town of Tuscumbia on 3 March 1887. Anne was nerve-wracked, shaky, tired, and a bit homesick; she had suffered from nightmares and flashbacks of her terrible childhood during the four-day train journey south[citation needed]. Sullivan also experienced quite a culture shock from her first time in the deep south as she discovered how different the south was from the north. Sullivan was also dismayed at the archaic sexist and racist customs that still existed in the south under the guise of "chivalry."

Anne met the then-six-year-old Helen and immediately began to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand, beginning with "d-o-l-l" for the doll that she had brought Keller as a present. Anne was very relieved when little Helen was able to imitate the hand movements exactly without prompting because that indicated that Helen was a very bright girl.

Helen Keller was frustrated, at first, because she did not understand that every object had a word uniquely identifying it.

Keller's 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.

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