Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Mieography

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
You can't really tell one story without telling the other, I think. So they will go, together. For a bit, anyhow.
Helen was born at an estate in Alabama called Ivy Green in 1880. Her father was a former Confederate officer, and her mother had the impressive lineage of being a cousin to Robert E. Lee, and the daughter of a Confederate General herself. She was born with the capabilities to see, and hear. That would all change at 13 months old, when she came down with an illness, that was eithe Scarlet Fever, or Meningitis. It was not a long illness, but it did it's damage. What many people don't know, is that there was a little girl named Martha Washington who lived in the house, and those 2 developed a sign language of their own. Helen actually used over 60 "home signs" by the time she was seven. This ability was actually crucial for her future development.
Anne Sullivan was born in 1866 in Massachusetts, the daughter of 2 impoverished Irish cooks who left Ireland during the Potato Famine. Her mother died when she was nine, of tuberculosis. She and her brother were sent to live with relatives, who later sent the two to live in an "almshouse", where her brother died. When she was 3 years old, Anne had began to have trouble with her eyesight, and later contracted an eye disease called trachoma, that often causes blindness by scarring. She had multiple surgeries trying to fix her vision. She ended up in a school for the blind, where she underwent more surgery, and regained only partial sight. She graduated from school in 1886, and, had another surgery which regained her more of her sight, and then, took a job. Working with Helen Keller.
Helen and her father, in the meantime had made a trip to Baltimore Maryland, in search of a specialist, for advice on what to do with Helen. He sent them to, of all people, Alexander Graham Bell, who was working with deaf children, at the time. Bell sent them to the Perkins Institute, and they? Assigned them one of their recent graduates, one Anne Sullivan. Here is where our stories converge.
Anne got permission from Helen's family to isolate the girl into a little garden house. Her first task with Helen was to instill discipline, of which she had been sorely lacking. Next, came the words. I am sure most of you have seen the movie, and the "water" scene. After finally grasping the concept, Helen practically exhausted Anne with her constant demands for more words. When she was ten, the pair learned of a deaf/blind Norwegian girl named Ragnhild Kata, who had learned to speak. This success inspired Helen to wish to speak, as well. So Annie taught her. Helen also learned Braille, and used it not only for English, but for French, German, Greek, and Latin.
In 1894, the pair moved to New York City to attend schools designated for the deaf. In 1896, they moved on to Massachusetts, where Helen entered the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, and then, 2 years later, Radcliffe College. Mark Twain, and admirer of Helen, had introduced her to a Standard Oil magnate and his wife, who paid for her education. At the age of 24, Helen graduated, magna cum laude, becoming the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
Anne Sullivan remained by her side as a companion for many years to come (a total of 49 years from start to finish.) She had married a man named John Macy, who helped write Helens autobiography, but their relationship deteriorated, and they seperated, though never divorced. In 1935 Anne became completely blind, and she died, a year later. There is now a public school in Brooklyn named for her. By this time, a new companion had been with them for a few years, named Polly. Helen and Polly moved to Connecticut, and travelled world wide, raising funds for the blind. However, Polly died, and then Winnie came aboard as Helen's companion.
Helen did not just tour to raise money for the blind, however. Her entire life she was busy, speaking out for issues she was passionate about, including pacifism, the suffragist movement, radical socialism, and, in favor of birth control. She started the Helen Keller International Organization which is devoted to research in vision, health and utrition, and in 1920, she was a founding member of the ACLU. When Annie was alive, they traveled to over 39 countries. She met every president from Grover Cleveland to Lyndon B. Johnson. (Though she was very staunch in her opposition against Woodrow Wilson.)
She was also an author. She wrote her first book at Eleven years old. Her autobiography was written when she was 24, and she wrote another, "spiritual" one about her religion, in 1927. She also wrote a multitude of essays on Socialism. In total, she wrote 12 books, and numerous articles.
She also had received, as gifts from Japan, 2 Akita dogs, and she is credited with having introduced the breed to the United States.
In 1961, Helen suffered a series of strokes, and spent her last years of life, at home. She died in 1968, just before her 88th birthday.


Daryl said...

I LOVE Friday because the Mieographies are always so filled with facts/info I never knew .. even then I thought I knew all about the woman/women you highlight.


Mimi said...

As a child I read and re-read Helen Keller's autobiography, I should pull it out and re-read

sybil law said...

I've always loved her story...

CamiKaos said...

what a wonderful choice. I love Friday's at your place.

holly said...

wow there's a lot i didn't know about helen and anne.

great stuff.