Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Anne Sullivan – The Miracle Worker March 4, 2011

Helen Keller opened up the world for the blind and deaf-blind, but she couldn’t have done it without the persistence and encouragement of her teacher, Anne Sullivan.

22-year old Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller to communicate by spelling the names of objects into the palm of her hand. Her technique formed the blueprint for teaching blind, deaf-blind, and visually impaired children, and her methods are still used today.

In a letter to her friend Sophia Hopkins, Sullivan relayed the story of her breakthrough with Helen. She wrote:

“As the cold water gushed forth […] I spelled “w-a-t-e-r” in Helen’s free hand. The word coming so close upon the sensation of cold water rushing over her hand seemed to startle her. […] A new light came into her face. She spelled “water” several times. Then she dropped on the ground and asked for its name and pointed to the pump and the trellis, and suddenly turning round she asked for my name. I spelled ‘Teacher.'”

Sullivan added a postscript to the letter:

“Last night when I got in bed, she stole into my arms of her own accord and kissed me for the first time, and I thought my heart would burst, so full was it of joy.”

Anne Sullivan never had children of her own, and yet she was able to reach through to a child lost in a dark and silent world—something the child’s own parents had been unable to do.

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4 Responses to “Anne Sullivan – The Miracle Worker”

  1. IrisD Says:

    I am really enjoying these posts on women’s history and the role of childless/childfree women. This one on Anne Sullivan has been especially touching. I think it is because we so often here the “As a mother”… “As a parent”… “My most important role”… “My greatest project”… and here was a woman who did not have a child of her own, but was the only one able to give the world to a little girl who had been trapped in a world without light or sound. I think Hellen Keller herself deserves an entry here. She went on to live a pretty amazing life herself.

  2. Lily Says:

    These are fantastic – thank you!

  3. Mali Says:

    I love this one. Particularly the last line.

  4. lmanterfield Says:

    Thanks, ladies. It’s really fun tracking down these women. They really are an inspiration.


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