Annie’s Eyes

By Diana Robinson

Annie Sullivan grew up very poor living with siblings and both parents.  Her father used to beat her on regular basis, when he was drunk.  Most people used to call Annie a spitfire because of her temper and her attitude.  Growing up she went through so much tragic stuff.  People, who don’t know Annie, wouldn’t know that she had a sweet and kind side to her as well.

Annie’s father abandoned her and her siblings when she was eight years old, right after her mother died.  Then her eldest two brothers were sent to the poor house.  Her youngest brother was very frail and he died soon after arriving at the poor house.  Annie stayed there until she turned fourteen years old.  Soon after she heard about a school for the blind and luckily she was sent to Perkins School in Boston, Massachusetts.

Growing up having a troubled and terrible childhood, Annie was having problems at the Perkins School.  She never learned how to read or write nor was she taught proper manners. She would speak to everyone who tried to teach her horribly and she would quickly get offended.  One thing about Annie is that she had determination.  She was eager to learn to read and write, and soon she was able to do both.  Annie studied hard and stayed focused until she was finally caught up with the other children her age.  When it was time for Annie to graduate, she graduated at the top of her class.

The Director of Perkins School developed a good relationship with Annie over the years and after graduation they assisted her with getting a position of being a teacher, in the household of the Kellers.  The household was in Alabama so Annie had to relocate.  The child, Helen Keller was deaf and blind and out of control.  With the help and stubbornness of Annie, Helen made great progress.  Annie taught her how to achieve and accept.  Annie had a very hard childhood and because of problems with her eyesight, she did not let any obstacles come in the way of her doing what was best for her student Helen. 

For fifty years she stayed with Helen as well as assisted her even when her own achievements were eclipsed.  Lastly, Annie is a survivor; she survived a horrific childhood at the same time losing her eyesight.  She never gave up her persistence to succeed in life.  Her disability did not define her but helped to make her stronger.  Annie Sullivan taught Helen Keller a lot, but foremost she taught her endurance and kindness.

In life there will always be obstacles and things pulling you down-- but don’t give up, stay positive and never let your disability define you.

Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle May 2014 Cleveland, Ohio