Perkins School for the Blind

Anne Sullivan Photograph Collection

Historical Background
For nearly five decades, Anne Sullivan was Helen Keller's teacher, friend, and constant companion. This collection contains portraits of Sullivan, images of her with Helen Keller and other images and documents that pertain to her life.

Anne Sullivan was born in April 1866 in Feeding Hills, a village in western Massachusetts. When Sullivan was about five years old, she contracted trachoma, an eye disease caused by bacteria. Over time, the recurring irritation and scarring of the cornea caused vision loss and necessitated several rounds of surgery throughout her life.

Anne Sullivan was the child of immigrants who left Ireland during the Great Famine. Sullivan's mother died when Anne was about eight years old and was sent to live in the "poor house" in Tewksbury, Massachusetts where the conditions were deplorable.

In 1880, Sullivan learned that a commission was coming to investigate the conditions at Tewksbury Almshouse. On the day of their visit, Anne followed them around, waiting for an opportunity to speak. Just as the tour was concluding, she gathered up all of her courage, approached a member of the team of inspectors, and told him that she wanted to go to school. That moment changed her life. On October 7, 1880, Anne Sullivan entered the Perkins Institution.

Anne Sullivan excelled academically at Perkins, and after her graduation, Michael Anagnos, then director at Perkins, sent Anne to teach Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Additional Information:
More information about Anne Sullivan is available on the Perkins History Museum section of

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