Helen Keller

2. Fingerspelling

Was anyone wondering what on earth we meant by “fingerspelling?”  The American Sign Language  manual alphabet consists of 26 one-handed signs which represent the 26 letters of the English alphabet:

This manual alphabet is still used by speakers of ASL; often for proper names or uncommon words.

See how quickly you can spell your name! (It seems very difficult at first, but with practice, it’s almost second nature.)

The British fingerspelling alphabet requires the use of two hands – this would have been too cumbersome for Annie Sullivan’s purposes:

Note that the two systems are almost completely dissimilar. These two alphabets developed  independently, and speakers of these languages are almost unintelligible to each other without translation.


1. The Famous Water Pump

The actual pump where the breakthrough happened.

The pump is still here at Ivy Green (though it seems to have been airlifted to the porch): http://www.helenkellerbirthplace.org/