NAME: Johanna (Anne) Sullivan Macy or Anne Mansfield Sullivan Macy, special educator
BIRTHDATE: April 14, 1866
BIRTHPLACE: Feeding Hills, Massachusetts
DIED: October 20, 1936
PLACE OF DEATH: Forest Hills, NY
FAMILY BACKGROUND: Anne Sullivan was the daughter of Irish immigrant farmers Thomas Sullivan and Alice Cloesy; she had one brother, Jimmie, who was crippled from tuberculosis. Growing up, Anne was subject to poverty and physical abuse by her alcoholic father and at the age of five, trachoma struck Anne, leaving her almost blind. Two years later, her mother died and her father abandoned his children to an orphanage in Tewksbury where her brother died shortly thereafter.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Despite being left in a orphanage with no formal educational facilities, Anne Sullivan prospered. When the state board of charities chairman, Frank Sanborn visited the Tewksbury orphanage; Anne literally threw herself in front of him crying, "Mr. Sanborn, I want to go to school."
After regaining her eyesight from a series of operations and graduating as class valedictorian in 1886 from the Perkins Institute for the Blind, she began teaching Helen Keller. When Miss Sullivan first arrived, Helen was seven years old and highly undisciplined. Miss Sullivan had to begin her teaching with lessons in obedience, followed by teachings of the manual and Braille alphabets. Sullivan attended classes with Keller and tutored her through the Perkins Institute, The Cambridge School for Young Ladies and Radcliffe College. All who came in contact with them were amazed at the ability of Miss Sullivan to reach Miss Keller and Miss Keller's heightened ability to grasp concepts unheard of by deaf and blind students before her. Alexander Graham Bell, Andrew Carnegie, Henry H. Rogers and John Spaulding were only a few of those who met them and supported them.
Throughout Helen's formal education and after, Miss Sullivan was often viewed with suspicion and speculation: many believed that Anne was trying to control Keller or use Keller. They did not trust the commitment that Anne Sullivan had to her student.
After Miss Keller's formal education, Anne Sullivan continued to assist Miss Keller by accompanying her on her travels and to various lecture tours. After Helen's graduation from Radcliffe, Anne married young Harvard instructor, John Albert Macy in 1905. The three lived together until 1912 when the Macy's separated.
Sullivan and Keller were constantly in demand to give lectures and to raise money for the American Foundation for the Blind. However, they often were too charitable and as a result had to supplement their income. The pair attempted to produce a movie, Deliverance, but it was unsuccessful; they experienced better success on the vaudeville circuit.
Eventually, Miss Sullivan's own eyesight failed her but toward the end of her life received recognition from Temple University, the Educational Institute of Scotland, and the Roosevelt Memorial foundation for her tireless teaching and commitment to Helen Keller.
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