Anne Sullivan was a teacher who educated the blind and deaf Helen Keller. She became Keller’s friend and lifelong companion. Sullivan herself had impaired eyesight, having contracted trachoma at the age of five. The story of Sullivan and Keller has been told in various dramas down the years including the in the film 1962 film ‘The Miracle Worker’.
Anne Sullivan was born Johanna Mansfield Sullivan in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts on April 14th 1866. Her parents had emigrated from County Limerick, Ireland to the United States during the 1840’s. Due to her impaired eyesight Sullivan was educated at Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. She underwent several operations which helped improve her vision. She graduated as the valedictorian of her class in 1886.
Following graduation Sullivan was employed by the parents of Helen Keller to teach their 7 year old daughter who was blind and deaf. Sullivan’s efforts were successful and Keller was admitted to Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1900. Sullivan accompanied Keller to college and assisted her with her studies. Keller became the first deaf blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1904.
Sullivan and Keller remained close companions. They travelled widely giving lectures and appearing in vaudeville performances. They were awarded honorary degrees from several universities. Anne Sullivan’s health began to decline and she died in New York in 1936. Helen Keller died aged 87 on June 1st 1968.
Anne Sullivan, the teacher who educated the blind and deaf Helen Keller, died aged 70 in the year 1936 On This Day.
Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller