The story of Helen Keller is well known — a woman who at the age of 19 months became deaf and blind. But it’s the story of her teacher, Anne Sullivan that is truly remarkable. At the age of 21 Anne Sullivan began tutoring six-year-old Helen Keller. Helen was left deaf, blind and mute from a childhood illness. Anne Sullivan was frustrated, having no way to communicate with Helen Keller, whose behaviour was wild and totally out of control — some said “animal like”. Anne had a vision and a belief that she could help Helen, even though it took great persistence managing Helen’s many wild tantrums.
What many may not know is that Anne herself had had nine operations to help her own failing eyesight prior to working with Helen. She knew how important her own sight was and had compassion for the young child many wanted to put into an asylum.
Anne showed courage and much belief, conviction and commitment towards her vision that one day Helen would be able to communicate with others. Anne held this belief on behalf of a girl who couldn’t yet see that it was possible.
Anne became famously known as The Miracle Worker. Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller how to speak — dedicating a lifetime to this vision. Anne would speak and Helen would place her hand over Anne’s face with one finger on Anne’s mouth and one on her nose and the thumb on her throat. Helen would then feel the vibration of the spoken word.
This incredible teacher–student relationship went on for 49 years. Anne Sullivan’s work teaching Helen allowed her to eventually graduate with honours from Radcliffe College. Helen published her autobiography at 22 and continued to be a prolific author. She became the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and she became a political activist. Helen and Anne travelled the world together, involving themselves in many social causes.
Anne’s lifelong belief in helping one woman made huge contributions to the field of education and her legacy changed the world of the blind forever. A woman with all the qualities of a True Believer for sure!
What we can achieve, with those who believe, has no limits!
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