Timeline Description: Anne Sullivan Macy was the innovative educator and helper to blind, mute, and deaf Helen Keller. It was Anne's hard work and dedication that transformed an untamed child into a mature, inquisitive, and vibrant adult. Anne was Helen's teacher and constant companion for 49 years.
|1866||Anne Sullivan is born.
Anne Sullivan is born on April 14, 1866 in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. Her parents, Thomas and Alice Sullivan, are poor Irish immigrants. Thomas has a very bad temper and often beats Anne. When Anne is 5 years old, her eyes begin to hurt. She has a disease that slowly destroys her vision.
|1874||Loss and separation (1874 - 1876).
Alice Sullivan dies in 1874 from tuberculosis, leaving Thomas to care for Anne, her little brother Jimmie, and her little sister Mary. Mary goes to live with a relative, while Anne, now ten, and Jimmie are sent to the poorhouse in Tewsbury, Massachusetts. Jimmie dies within 3 months.
|1876||From poorhouse to blind school (1876 - 1886).
Anne lives in the poorhouse for four years. One day, she begs officials to go to school. She is sent to the Perkins Institute for the Blind. With no previous schooling, she is teased by the wealthy kids. But she works hard and becomes valedictorian at graduation. Two eye surgeries improve her sight.
Now that Anne has graduated, she needs to find a job. While visiting a friend, she receives a letter from the director of Perkins. He tells her about the Keller family in Alabama who need a teacher for their deaf, mute, and blind daughter named Helen. Anne accepts the position.
|1887||A new pupil.
Anne arrives at Tuscumbia, Alabama on March 3, 1887. She finds Helen to be a wild child who eats by taking food from everyone else's plate and is allowed to do whatever she please because of her bad temper. Anne tries to teach Helen finger spelling, but Helen just copies the motions.
|1887||Breakthrough (March to November 1887).
Anne moves with Helen to the small cottage nearby. She continues to finger spell in Helen's hand. One day Helen realizes that the liquid flowing over her hand and the word Anne is spelling means "water." Helen wants to learn more. By the 8th month, Helen can read, write, spell, add, subtract, and multiply.
|1888||Perkins Institute (May 1888 - 1892).
Anne takes Helen to Boston to go to the Perkins Institute to learn. The word has spread that a deaf/mute/blind girl can communicate. Many wealthy families invite them to their homes. Helen and Anne meet many famous people. Some even set up a fund to help with Helen's education.
Helen wants to go to college. With Anne by her side, Helen studies at a prep school, and then goes to Radcliffe College. Anne has to sit in all the lectures and read all the books so she can interpret everything for Helen. It is very tiring, causing her eyes and head to hurt. Helen graduates in 1904.
|1904||A farm and a family (1904 - 1914).
Helen and Anne move into a farmhouse in Wrentham, Massachusetts. A constant visitor is John Macy, who had helped publish Helen's autobiography. He falls in love with Anne and they marry in May of 1905. He eventually regrets Anne's attention to Helen and leaves for good in 1914.
|1913||Tours and a new helper (1913 - 1915).
In 1913 Anne and Helen go lecture at various places to make money. After John leaves, Anne is very sad, but she goes on tour again to pay bills. They eventually hire Polly Thompson as Helen's secretary.
|1916||Anne gets sick.
Anne becomes very sick and Polly takes her to a hospital in New York while Helen goes back to Alabama. New York is too cold, so Polly and Anne go to Puerto Rico for five months. Anne makes a full recovery.
|1917||A new house, Hollywood, and vaudeville (1917 - 1922).
Anne, Helen, and Polly move to a home in Forest Hills, New York. They travel to Hollywood to make a movie about Helen, but it doesn't do well. Anne and Helen perform in vaudeville to make money. Anne's health is poor and her eyes hurt. They return home in 1922.
|1924||A work opportunity and a loss (1924 - 1929).
The American Foundation for the Blind hires Anne and Helen to be spokespersons, giving them steady income. Anne's right eye becomes increasingly painful. The doctor removes the eye, leaving her with little eyesight in the other eye.
|1932||An honorary degree.
The Temple University gives Anne an honorary degree. But even though the event is about Anne, everyone's attention is drawn toward Helen. Anne's health gets worse. She eventually loses all sight in her left eye.
Anne's health deteriorates. She dies at age 70 on October 20, 1936, holding Helen's hand. Her ashes are placed in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. She is inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 2003. Anne Sullivan May will be remembered as "Teacher," who devoted herself to improve the life of and give sight to her one and only pupil.