Perkins School for the Blind Archive > Collections

Collection Overview:
This collection is comprised of three different sets of letters written between 1886 and 1896 related to the education of Helen Keller. It includes correspond- ence between Michael Anagnos, the Director of Perkins Institution and Massachusetts School for the Blind (now Perkins School for the Blind) in Boston, and Helen's parents, Capt. A.H. and Kate Keller, as well as with Helen herself. A large part of the correspond- ence is between Anagnos and Annie Sullivan, a graduate of Perkins, who was sent to Tuscumbia, Alabama to work with Helen.

The letters feature detailed descriptions of Helen's education, documenting both her rapid progress and some of the challenges that she and her teacher faced.

Historical Background:
Helen Keller was born a healthy baby on June 27, 1880 in Tuscumbia, Alabama to retired army Captain Arthur Keller and his second wife, Kate. She had a younger brother, Phillips Brooks, and a sister, Mildred. When she was nineteen months old, she became very ill with a high fever. Doctors at the time diagnosed this as “brain fever” or “brain congestion”, but experts today believe that she most likely suffered from scarlet fever or meningitis.

In the summer of 1886, Capt. Keller contacted Mr. Anagnos, to inquire whether he might be able to re- commend someone to teach Helen. Anagnos' initial response is the first letter of this collection. He selected one of his prize pupils, a recent graduate, to go to Tuscumbia, Alabama. Anne Mansfield Sullivan arrived at the Keller's house in March 1887 and the account of her arrival is included here.

In May of 1888, Sullivan brought Helen to Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. Helen was very happy to meet other children with whom she could communicate, and loved the library of embossed books, as well as the tactile museum’s collection of bird and animal specimens.

In November 1891 her relationship with Perkins changed because of the "Frost King incident" in which she was accused of plagiarism. Keller and Sullivan were deeply wounded by the accusation and left the school in 1892. From 1894-1896 Helen Keller attended the Wright-Humason School for the Deaf in New York City, followed by the Cambridge School for Young Ladies, and Radcliffe College, where she received her B.A. cum laude in 1904.

For More Information:
For more information about Keller's life and education, see: Helen Keller.

For a great overview read "Helen Keller- A Second Laura Bridgman", written by Michael Anagnos in the 1887 Annual Report of the Perkins Institution.

A scrapbook of newspaper and magazine articles from the years 1887-1893 is available online (23 volumes of clippings available here).

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

Rights and Permissions: One set of correspondence is shared here courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. The other two sets are from the archives of Perkins School for the Blind.

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.

Anne Sullivan's Correspondence with Michael Anagnos, 1887-1896

Anne Sullivan's...

167 photos