Digital Commonwealth

Anne Sullivan Photograph Collection

Perkins School for the Blind

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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 on Anne Sullivan can be found on the Perkins Museum Website
Scrapbook Volume 1, 1838
Scrapbook Volume 2, 1876
Scrapbook Volume 3, 1903
Scrapbook Volume 4, 1903

More information about Anne Sullivan is available on the Perkins History Museum website.

Visit perkinsarchives.org for more information about the Perkins Archives.

Rights and Permissions: Use of the images from the collection of Perkins School for the Blind requires written permission. For more information, please contact the Research Librarian at hayes.library@perkins.org.