Jun 28

Helen And Teacher: The Story Of Helen Keller And Anne Sullivan Macy

Posted by Soliloquy in Adults with disabilities | For teachers | Hearing Impaired | Vision Impaired

At the heart of this wonderful biography is the brilliantly portrayed relationship between two great American women whose lives were bound together for all time. “Something fascinating on every page . . . a deeply absorbing portrait of two intertwined lives.”–The New York Times Book Review…. More >>

Helen And Teacher: The Story Of Helen Keller And Anne Sullivan Macy

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  • The lives of Helen Keller and her teacher, Ann Sullivan Macy are eternally intertwined. Helen Keller, blind and deaf since infancy depended on Annie since the age of 6 when the latter was hired to teach her.

    This comprehensive, fascinating and completely riviting biography does an excellent job of separating the two women’s lives and analyzing each woman in her own right. Helen takes giant steps beyond the water pump where Annie first impressed upon her the concept of language. It is to this author’s credit that the reader does not languish at that water pump, but follows these women throughout their lives.

    The true symbiosis is fully described when other teachers as well as Helen’s own mother Kate, try to separate her from Annie. Feeling that her maternal authority had been usurped, Kate understandably wanted to wean Helen from Annie. Each attempt by any person to effect such a change resulted in disaster. Even Annie’s marriage to a gifted editor named John Macy ended in an acrimonious split because he felt Helen took up too large a portion of their lives together. From all accounts, Macy seemed to feel that Annie used the same domineering methods she had used on the child Helen with him. He also described Annie as “manipulative and controlling,” which certainly seem like apt descriptions of her approach. Resentful of Helen’s constant presence and feeling like an odd member of an equally odd triadic relationship, John retreats further from the marriage.

    When Annie dies, Helen is disconsolate; she feels she can’t survive without her “Teacher,” although she, by that point had been at Annie’s side for nearly half a century. A bright, progressive woman named Polly assumes the role of “Teacher,” and Helen flourishes under her gentle tutlage and interpretation. Polly is clearly accepting of Helen’s challenges and appears to make a sincere effort to see that Helen is fully included in all conversations and activities which she [Polly] is part of. One does not get the sense that Polly is a martyr. One gets the impression that Polly is loyal and determined with no agenda of her own.

    Helen’s relationship with Polly does appear to be much healthier than her relationship with Annie. This book fully explores Helen’s character, her life experiences and the types of relationships she forged in the post-Teacher years with intelligence and sensitivity.

  • This is the best biography about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller that I have read. Since I was a child I have been fascinated by them and have read everything that I could get my hands on. Lash goes beyond their heroism and describes Annie and Helen as real people with “feet of clay.”

    He relies heavily on voluminous correspondence to show the many facets of Helen and those in her life. Many of these details are not explained in other biographies. For example, Helen’s father tried to shore up his finances with loans (often defaulted) from Helen’s patrons. The “Frost King” incident caused many people to doubt Annie’s veracity and credibility as a teacher for the rest of her life. Mr.Sandborn and Mr. Anagnos used the controversy to divert attention from Annie’s role as Teacher to Helen and to re-focus attention on the role that the Perkins Institute played in her education. Lash also shows that John Macy had a complex relationship (for the good and the bad) with both Annie and with Helen. Helen was a radical Socialist and often risked her popularity and, therefore, their income by speaking out in support of Socialist leaders and causes. In the end the reader sees that Helen and many of those around her did great things, but they were not perfect. Insecurity, jealousy, money and a desire for love and fame caused all of them to act ugly sometimes.

    The other point that was never clear to me before, is that Helen and Annie spent their lives marketing themselves in order to generate an income. Helen’s father faced a serious financial downturn that prevented him from supporting them from Helen’s young womanhood on. Therefore, to continue Helen’s formal education and to maintain a home away from Alabama, they had to cultivate sponsors, write publishable material, and earn money speaking at a myriad of functions. In many ways, this was an uncertain life that dictated that they remain in good standing with public opinion at all times.

    The other connection that Lash made for me concerns the complexity, the depth and the breadth of Annie and Helen’s relationship. Because Annie suffered through a harrowing childhood, she desperately needed to create a loving family. Helen presented the perfect opportunity for Annie to be needed and to love and be loved unconditionally. While some people construed their relationship to be unhealthy or manipulative, it seems that it was a natural outgrowth of their particular situation. Once again, it was not perfect, but it served a huge need for them both.

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to see a more realistic view of the lives of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan.

  • There is no need to read anything else on Helen Keller or Annie Sullivan Macy, because it is all included in this incredible biography. This in-depth look at these two remarkable women was both readable and throughly informative. Of all my research on Annie Sullivan, I have found nothing that is not mentioned in Mr. Lash’s work; he has truly captured her spirit, along with her triumphant pupil.

  • AFB Press is the publishing arm of the American Foundation For The Blind. Helen And Teacher, written by biographer Joseph P. Lash and published by AFB Press, is a magnificent, 811-page opus that is the most comprehensive work ever done on the unique and moving story of a little blind, deaf and dumb girl, and the dedicated woman who brought her into contact with the world, and with people. The basic story is well known to the general public, the subject of stage plays and movies. But in Helen And Teacher, we are treated in exhaustive, definitive detail to this landmark biographical story of the human spirit. Also highly recommended from AFB Press is their wonderful little gift book, To Love This Life: Quotations By Helen Keller which is also available in an audiobook format.

  • I love this book and lost my copy so I got another. Joseph Lash thoroughly researched this book. He spent many, many hours in the archives of Perkins School for the Blind Library. This library has saved every publication by and about Helen Keller. This is a very in depth book and is also about 800 pages but it is well worth the read.



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