Anne Sullivan – extraordinary woman

This is one of the poems from Reaching the Stars:

Anne Sullivan Teacher to Helen Keller

* Helen Keller lost both her sight and hearing as a baby. She became very frustrated as a child until her family employed Anne Sullivan, who cleverly found ways to help communicate with her and help her communicate. Anne was Helen’s teacher and companion until she died – by then, she had enabled Helen to get to college, learn to type, speak, get married, tackle issues such as women’s suffrage, and even write a book.


I started with the word for ‘doll’,

finger spelling on her hand.

This child could neither hear, nor see –

how could I help her understand?


To fill the space for song and bird,

all that sound and light explain;

out of reach did not exist

and dark and silence had no name.


Until I spelled into her hand

under a pump – though deaf and blind,

the word for water and the water

flowed together in her mind.


That living word grew in her hands,

gave her ways to hear and see,

let in hope and joy and love

with words that set her free.


© Liz Brownlee


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