Anne Sullivan Biography


Birthday: April 14, 1866 (Aries)

Born In: Agawam, Massachusetts, United States

Johanna ‘Anne’ Mansfield Sullivan Macy, better known as Anne Sullivan, was a well known Irish-American teacher and a mentor to Helen Keller. She went through a tough time as a child because her mother was suffering from frail health and her father was an alcoholic. After the death of her mother and abandonment by her father at the age of 8, she and her brother, Jammie, were sent to state almshouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. There her brother passed away and then she moved on to the Perkins School for the Blind, Boston. She passed out of there as a valedictorian of her class. After that she moved to Tuscumbia, Alabama to Keller family to tutor their deaf, blind and mute daughter Helen Keller and from there onwards she was with her for the next 39 years of her life, tutoring her, accompanying her to the university, helping her to understand her lectures, tutorials, etc. Sullivan and Helen started working for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) as advocates, counselors and fundraisers. She fell in love with John Albert Macy, a Harvard instructor and they both got married when she was only 39 but the marriage never worked out and they got separated. She died in comma at the age of 70, while holding hands with her companion of life Helen Keller.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Johanna Mansfield Sullivan

Died At Age: 70


Spouse/Ex-: John Albert Macy

father: Thomas Sullivan

mother: Alice Cloesy Sullivan

siblings: Ellen Sullivan - James Sullivan - Mary Sullivan

Educators American Women

Died on: October 20, 1936

place of death: Forest Hills, New York, United States

Diseases & Disabilities: Stroke

Cause of Death: Coronary Thrombosis

Notable Alumni: Perkins School For The Blind

U.S. State: Massachusetts

More Facts

education: Perkins School For The Blind

awards: - Academy awards

  • 1

    What is Anne Sullivan famous for?

    Anne Sullivan is best known for being the teacher and lifelong companion of Helen Keller, a deaf-blind woman who became an author, lecturer, and advocate.

  • 2

    How did Anne Sullivan communicate with Helen Keller?

    Anne Sullivan communicated with Helen Keller through a manual alphabet known as finger spelling, tactile signing, and other methods to help her understand language and the world around her.

  • 3

    What techniques did Anne Sullivan use to teach Helen Keller?

    Anne Sullivan used physical touch, repetition, and patience to teach Helen Keller language, communication, and academic subjects, ultimately helping her overcome her disabilities and achieve great success.

  • 4

    How did Anne Sullivan's upbringing influence her work with Helen Keller?

    Anne Sullivan's difficult childhood and experience as a visually impaired orphan helped her develop empathy, resilience, and determination, which she applied to her work with Helen Keller, ultimately shaping the young girl's future and success.

Childhood & Early Life
Anne Sullivan was born on 14 April 1866, in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. She was born to Irish immigrants parents, Thomas and Alice Cloesy Sullivan. Her father was an alcoholic and her mother had tuberculosis. She had a younger brother named James.
Anne Sullivan contracted trachoma at the age of five and over a period of time she lost her sight. At the age of eight, Anne lost her mother to tuberculosis and two years later her father abandoned her and her brother.
In 1876, Sullivan and her brother were sent to a state almshouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. Shortly, after moving there, her brother also died and she spent another years there. She was later sent to Perkins School for the Blind, Boston.
In 1880, Sullivan learned to read and write in Perkins and began her formal education there. She also went through several eye operations while she was there, which improved her eye sight drastically.
Continue Reading Below
In 1886, Sullivan graduated from Perkins School for the Blind, Boston as a valedictorian of her class. Immediately after that she was invited into the Keller Family to tutor their daughter, Helen at Tuscumbia, Alabama.
In 1887, Sullivan accepted the offer of Keller family and began her lifelong task as Helen Keller’s teacher. Helen was blind, deaf and mute. She had difficulty initially to deal with Helen as she was an angry and rebellious girl.
Sullivan was Helen’s home tutor for 13 years and after that she accompanied her to Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts. She attended all her classes with her and spelled into her hands all the lectures and assignments.
It was one of the greatest moments in both of the women’s lives when Helen graduated from the university. Alongside her, Sullivan also gained college education.
The following years, Helen and Sullivan started living in Wrentham, Massachusetts and then moved in with a woman called Polly Thompson. Polly was Helen’s secretary and Sullivan’s assistant. In 1916, Anne was diagnosed with tuberculosis and went to Lake Placid to recover.
Helen, Sullivan and Polly travelled extensively to United States and other countries after World War I. They gave lectures, burlesque performances and Helen did a Hollywood movie called ‘Deliverance’. The film did not do very well commercially.
In 1924, Sullivan and Helen started working for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) as advocates, counselors and fundraisers.
In 1930, Sullivan was offered an honorary degree from the Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Helen was also offered the same degree. Sullivan refused it, but Helen accepted the honor.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1901, Sullivan met John Albert Macy, a Harvard instructor who was helping Keller with her autobiography. They both fell in love and he proposed to her but she resisted, thinking that it will affect her relationship with Keller.
Sullivan and Macy got married in 1905 at the age of 39. He was much younger to her. In 1911, Sullivan fell ill and had to undergo surgery.
Their marriage started getting affected due to Sullivan’s devotion towards Keller and also they had money problems as they were living off Keller’s income. He also started getting troubled with her temperamental moods.
In 1929, Sullivan got her right eye removed as it was a constant source of pain. She spent next 3 years in Scotland trying to recuperate. She went completely blind by then.
Sullivan died on 20 October 1936 at the age of 70 as she fell into coma in Forest Hills, Queens, New York. It is said that she died by Keller’s side.
Facts About Anne Sullivan
Anne Sullivan was not only Helen Keller's beloved teacher, but she was also an advocate for women's rights and education for the blind and deaf.
Despite facing significant challenges in her own life, including poverty and vision problems, Anne Sullivan remained dedicated to helping others.
Anne Sullivan had a strong passion for literature and often shared her love of reading and writing with her students.
She had a great sense of humor and was known for her witty remarks and playful personality.

See the events in life of Anne Sullivan in Chronological Order

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