Have you listened to the podcast on Helen Keller? We strongly recommend that you do before diving into the life of the woman we discuss in this minicast, it will make the experience just a little richer. Go ahead, we’ll wait.
While doing research for the Helen Keller podcast, we both gained an admiration for Anne Sullivan Macy and thought she deserved a little spotlight time all her own. Of course, much of her story is intertwined with that of Helen, but she was a strong, smart, brave woman who lived a life previously uncharted. She busted through barrier after barrier to create a life story worth repeating.
Born in 1866 in Feeding Hills, MA, as life dealing goes—Anne was not given a winning hand: her parents were extremely poor Irish immigrants who chose to leave the support systems in bigger cities like Boston and settle in rural New England. Her father was an alcoholic who could not hold a job, and her mother would eventually die of tuberculosis when Anne was only nine years old. Her parents had five children, although only two of them would live to adulthood.
When Anne was seven she contracted trachoma which went untreated. Had she been emigrating to the US, she would have been turned back to Ireland for this bacterial infection of her eyes—instead she lost her most of her vision.
Once her mother died, her younger sister Mary was sent to live with relatives. We read, and must believe, that Anne never saw her again. Her father was unable to care for Anne and her brother, Jimmy, so they were sent to the Tewkesbury Almshouse within a year of her mother’s death. Just hearing the grim realities of this institution would make most of us weak in the knees, but she really had a “it is what it is” attitude about it.
Sadly, her brother, who had a tubercular hip, died within a few months of entering the Almshouse. Anne was alone.