Born on April 14, 1866, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts,
Anne Sullivan was a teacher who taught Helen Keller, a blind and deaf child, how to communicate and read Braille.
Anne Sullivan was a gifted teacher best known for her work with Helen Keller, a blind and deaf child she taught to communicate. At only 20 years of age, Sullivan showed great maturity and ingenuity in teaching Keller and worked hard with her pupil, bringing both women much acclaim.
Sullivan even helped Keller write her autobiography. Early Life Anne Sullivan was born on April 14, 1866, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. A gifted teacher, Anne Sullivan is best known for her work with Helen Keller, a blind and deaf child she taught to communicate. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Ireland during the Great Famine of the 1840s. The couple had five children, but two died in their infancy. Sullivan and her two surviving siblings grew up in impoverished conditions and struggled with health problems.
At the age of five, Anne contracted an eye disease called trachoma, which severely damaged her sight. Her mother, Alice, suffered from tuberculosis and had difficulty getting around after a serious fall. She died when Anne was eight years old. Even at an early age, Sullivan had a strong-willed personality. She sometimes clashed with her father, Thomas, who was left to raise Sullivan and her siblings after their mother's death. Thomas—who was often abusive—eventually abandoned the family. Anne and her infirm younger brother, Jimmie, were sent to live at the Tewksbury Almshouse, a home for the poor. Some reports say that Sullivan also had a sister who was sent to live with relatives. Tewksbury Almshouse was dirty, rundown, and overcrowded. Sullivan's brother Jimmie died just months after they arrived there, leaving Anne alone.
While at Tewksbury, Sullivan learned about schools for the blind and became determined to get an education as a means to escape poverty. She got her chance when members from a special commission visited the home. After following the group around all day, she worked up the nerve to talk to them about sending her to a special school. Star Pupil Sullivan left Tewksbury to attend the Perkins School for the Blind in 1880 and underwent surgery to help improve her limited vision. Still, Sullivan faced great challenges while at Perkins.
She had never been to school before and lacked social graces, which put her at odds with her peers. Humiliated by her own ignorance, Sullivan had a quick temper and liked to challenge the rules, which got her in trouble with her teachers. She was, however, tremendously bright, and she soon advanced academically. Sullivan did eventually settle down at the school, but she never felt like she fit in there.
She did develop close friendships with some of her teachers, including the school's director Michael Anagnos. Chosen as the valedictorian of her class, Sullivan delivered a speech at her June 1886 graduation. She told her fellow students that "duty bids us go forth into active life. Let us go cheerfully, hopefully, and earnestly, and set ourselves to find our special part. When we have found it, willingly and faithfully perform it; for every obstacle we overcome, every success we achieve tends to bring man closer to God."