Helen Keller & Annie Sullivan 1897 - 3a15420
“A strenuous effort must be made to train young people to think for themselves and take independent charge of their lives.” – Annie Sullivan
Education had transformed the lives of Annie Sullivan and her pupil and lifelong friend Helen Keller. In an era that offered few opportunities for women or the disabled, the pair managed to earn their living, attend college and travel internationally.
Sullivan never started out to become a world-renowned educator. According to Sullivan, “some of us blunder into life through the back door”.
Born into a poor Irish immigrant family, she had impaired eyesight due to Trachoma, which causes inflammation and scar tissue in the eye. After the death of her mother, Sullivan ended up in an overcrowded poorhouse. She escaped the poorhouse by begging a wealthy donor to be sent to school. Unlike the other students at the Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, Sullivan did not have a family to return to after graduation.
Fate step in. Helen Keller’s family were looking for a teacher. Sullivan needed a job. Together Sullivan and Keller would jump start the change of how the world views women and the disabled.
Sullivan considered her life an experiment. “If all people knew what was good for them and acted accordingly, this world would be different world, though not nearly so interesting. But we don’t know what’s good for us, and I’m spending my days in experimenting. The experiments are amusing – and sometimes costly, but there’s no other way of getting knowledge.”