Anne Sullivan: Helen Keller's Teacher & Friend

Topics: Helen Keller

When I think of powerful women from the past, Anne Sullivan is one of the first women to pop into my mind. Anne Sullivan was born on April 14, 1866 in Massachusetts. Her real name is Joanna, but she was called Anne throughout her life. When Anne was still young she suffered from a serious illness that left her nearly blind. Anne’s mother died when Anne was only eight and her father left Anne and her two siblings two years later. The children were then placed into an almshouse to be cared for.

After a lonely and miserable couple of years, Anne had a surgery that restored some of her sight. With the regain of some sight, Anne felt revived and decided to move on to Tuscumbia, Alabama where she would become the governess of a six-year old girl named Helen Keller. It was through caring for this six-year old girl, Helen, that shaped Anne Sullivan into a woman of conscience.

When Anne first met Helen Keller, she was blind, deaf, and mute since she was 19 months old.

Helen was left undisciplined, ill tempered, and neglected with no contact with the outer world. Anne’s difficult job was to tame Helen. Helen screamed, bit, hit, and kicked Anne, but Anne, faithfully, never gave up. Anne Sullivan displayed the virtues of fortitude, compassion, and most importantly patience while caring for Helen. Anne had a respect for life that gave her the belief that all humans were created in the image of God, and WE ALL ARE GOOD.

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Anne Sullivan treated Helen with equality, just as Jesus cured the lepers when the rest of the community cast them out of society.

Helen constantly challenged Anne to find new ways to make her learn. Anne constantly challenged Helen by not allowing her to give up and to be there to support Helen. After communicating by spelling the name of objects into Helen’s hands and then allowing Helen to feel the object and repeated spelling it, Helen finally discovered the connection. Anne Sullivan’s persistence and determination is what made her a perfect role model to us all.

Anne Sullivan contributed so much to society. After the miraculous rescue of Helen Keller, Anne continued to go through college with Helen and sign the lectures into Helen’s hands. Anne gave lectures about her faith in Helen Keller and her belief that everyone has the potential to succeed, we just need to help one another. I believe God is the base of Anne Sullivan’s and Helen Keller’s lives. It was extremely rare and risky for a person in the late 1800’s to undergo eye surgery and be able to see after. I feel God guided Anne every step of the way from Anne gaining her sight back, to Helen being taught manners. Anne Sullivan has had a strong impact on me personally.

In seventh grade my classmates and I were to do a book report on “The Miracle Worker”. Like usual, I procrastinated and the day before the report was due I did not yet even read the book. Turning to the only other choice in the time we were permitted, my friends and I decided to take a trip to Blockbuster to rent the movie instead. While watching the movie, we were shocked to believe that we were actually interested in it. By the end of the movie I had tears in my eyes as I thought of the impact an ordinary person (with extraordinary talents) could have on a bitter and wild child as Helen. From that day on I have admired Anne Sullivan and have known that is what I would like to do with my life. I want to have an impact on people the way Anne had an impact on Helen. I want to be there for the Disabled who feel they are alone in this world.

I purchased a sign language book and began teaching myself some signs after I watched the movie, and read the book too. This past summer I volunteered at A.E.R.O., a special education school, and I was able to encourage the children to be themselves and not allow them to give up. I was there to support the children and when they would look at me with that look on their face that they couldn’t do something, I smiled at them and stayed with them until they tried again. The world would be a perfect place if its inhabitants all had the heart and determination as Anne Sullivan.

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Anne Sullivan: Helen Keller's Teacher & Friend. (2021, Dec 21). Retrieved from

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