Helen and Me

The story of Annie Sullivan Macy and her work with Helen Keller

Now students will have the opportunity to meet Annie Sullivan Macy, the strong, heroic woman of the 19th century who made the art of teaching her life's work.

At the age of nine, Miss Sullivan was an orphan, legally blind and living in an almshouse in Tewkesbury, Massachusetts. It was these hardships that prepared her to transform the life of a young blind and deaf girl named Helen Keller. It was Miss Sullivan's gift of language that enabled the child to bravely walk through life and conquer the impossible. From the spelling of Helen's first word, W-A-T-E-R, to Helen's graduation with high honors from Radcliffe University, Annie Sullivan worked as her Teacher by her side. Together they inspired millions.

Mark Twain once wrote in a letter to Helen, "You are a marvelous creature. You and your other half, Miss Sullivan that is. For it took the pair of you to make this perfect and complete whole."

In telling this story through story, music, and comical join-in reenactments, the inspiration continues. With the help of Anne Pasquale as Miss Sullivan, students will follow the path of Helen and Teacher. Students will put themselves in Helen's shoes and learn what it meant to be as severely handicapped as she. They'll also learn how Annie's miraculous gift of language changed the quality of Helen's life forever.

Curriculum/Program Objectives

  1. To have students become aware and tolerant of those who are blind and/or deaf.
  2. To have students understand the necessity of perseverance in the face of adversity.
  3. To highlight the role of women in society.
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The man credited with the invention of the telephone, whose wife was deaf. It was Mr. Bell who initiated the union between Helen and Teacher.
Someone who does not possess the ability to see.
A system of reading and writing for the blind, which uses raised dots to denote symbols and letters, and can be understood through the sense of touch.
Someone who does not possess the ability to hear.
The director of Boston's Perkins School For The Blind in 1880.
The famous deaf and blind pupil of Annie Sullivan Macy, and daughter of Captain and Kate Keller. Because of Annie's teaching, Ms. Keller becamse a widely-read author, lecturer, international advocate for the blind, and a source of inspiration for thousands.
The school Annie Sullivan entered at the age of nine. Perkins gave her several operations, which restored her sight, and a formal education.
The terrible plague that forced Thomas and Alice Sullivan, Annie's parents, from their homeland in Ireland. It was this disease that was said to have caused Annie's mother's early death and led to Annie's childhood blindness as well as her brother Jimmy's crippling tuberculosis.
The ability to see, touch, taste, smell and hear.
A means of communication based on a series of physical gestures. It was the language's manual alphabet that Annie employed as the primary tool in instructing Helen, by spelling into her hand.
The Boston almshouse where Jimmy and Annie lived as children.
The famous nineteenth-century author who wrote Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and who befriended Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.
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Questions for Discussion and Classroom Activities

  1. Have one person pretend to be deaf and blind. Now hold a 30-second conversation with a normal student. Perform simple classroom tasks.
  2. Imagine what Helen Keller's life would have been if she had never encountered Annie Sullivan. Do you think she would have had many friends? Had as many interesting hobbies? How would she have experienced life?
  3. Make a list of many hobbies and activities you enjoy every day. If any or all of the following are on your list - biking, swimming, horseback riding, canoeing, mountain climbing, singing, foreign languages - you have a hobby in common with Helen Keller. What would you need to do in order to enjoy these same activities if you were blind and deaf like Helen?
  4. The art of teaching is not easy. Select one of your hobbies from question 3. Now turn to a neighbor and try to instruct them in one of its aspects. Think of different ways to instruct your student - pictures, modeling, verbal examples, etc. Now imagine your student has a handicap - a broken leg, a hearing problem, etc. How does this change your approach?
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Braddy, Nella (Henny). Anne Sullivan Macy. New York: 1933
Costello, Elaine. Signing: HowTo Speak with Your Hands. New York: Bantam Books, 1983
Hurwitz, Johanna. Helen Keller: Courage In The Dark. (A Step into Reading book: Step 3) New York: Random House, 1997.
Keller, Helen. The Story Of My Life. New York: Andor, 1976
Keller, Helen. Teacher: Annie Sullivan Macy.New York: 1955
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What they say about...Helen and Me

"Anne Pasquale is a fine actress and a great teacher!" - Elizabeth Kaplowitz, Director, LAB School for gifted children

"It was wonderful, a gift that my kids will never forget." - Angela Giufredi, teacher for the hearing-impaired, and recipient of the President's 1998 Teacher of the Year award

"A pleasurable and informative work." John Strasberg, Director

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Artists' Information

Anne PasqualeAnne Pasquale (actress & playwright) is presently a member of The Actors Studio. She trained at LAMDA and the New York School of the Arts. She has appeared on TV in: As The World Turns and Search for Tomorrow. In Great Britain she performed a range of roles from Viola in Twelfth Night to Sarah Goddard, a turn of the century Rhode Island feminist. Some of her New York stage credits include: The New Dramatist's Three Sisters, Lincoln Center’s A View from the Bridge, Theatre of the Open Eye’s Birdbath, The 78th Street Theatre Lab’s Ruffian on the Stair, and Paradise Lost at The Actors Studio. In addition, Ms. Pasquale creates and tours her repertoire of Living History Programs for audiences of all ages in venues along the East Coast. Recent appearances include: Nellie at The NHHC Chautauqua, Liberty Belles at The Yale University Museum and Deborah Sampson at The John Jay Homestead.
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