Anne Sullivan Biography

A brilliant Irish-American teacher who taught Helen Keller, who was a blind, deaf and mute girl, how to communicate, Anne Sullivan was a coach in Radcliffe College. Check out this biography for detailed information on her life.

Quick Facts

Birthday: April 14, 1866

Nationality: American

Famous: Educators American Women

Died At Age: 70

Sun Sign: Aries

Also Known As: Johanna

Born in: Feeding Hills

Famous as: American Teacher, Instructor


Spouse/Ex-: John Albert Macy

father: Thomas Sullivan

mother: Alice Cloesy Sullivan

siblings: Ellen Sullivan - James Sullivan - Mary Sullivan

Died on: October 20, 1936

place of death: Forest Hills

U.S. State: Massachusetts

More Facts

education: Perkins School for the Blind

awards: - Academy awards

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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.

Childhood & Early Life
  • 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.
  • After Keller died, her ashes were put beside Sullivan’s in the Washington National Cathedral.
  • She found a small library in Tewksbury and asked people to read to her.
  • When she went to school for the first time and she felt like she did not know as much as her classmates did.
  • She was called ‘Miss Spitfire’ by the director of her school, Michael Anagnos, who also became one of her close friends later.

See the events in life of Anne Sullivan in Chronological Order

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Article Title
- Anne Sullivan Biography
- Editors,
Anne Sullivan

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