Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Connected and Remembered in Tewksbury

A reprise from June 1, 2011:

This sculpture by Mico Kaufman captures the moment Anne Sullivan successfully teaches Helen Keller her first word – water. The work was dedicated on June 28, 1992.

Helen Keller world-renowned writer and lecturer – blind and deaf since her very early childhood –  died on this day – June 1, 1968. Her teacher and companion Massachusetts-born and partially blind – Anne Sullivan was sent to live at the Tewksbury Almshouse (now Hospital) after her mother died. Later she was sent to the Perkins School for the Blind. As a 20 years old she went to the Keller home in Alabama to become Helen’s instructor. It was the beginning of a 49-year relationship, Sullivan evolving into governess and then eventual companion of nearly 50 years.

The teaching was frustrating at first but Keller’s big breakthrough in communication came after the first month, when she realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm of her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”; she then nearly exhausted Sullivan demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world. Hence, the work by Mico Kaufman – “Water” – commemorating Helen Keller’s first word.

Mico Kaufman – who lives in Tewksbury – was recently awarded an Honorary degree by the University of Massachusetts Lowell.