Anne (Annie) Sullivan was born in 1866 in Massachusetts to poor Irish immigrants. Her mother died when she was eight. Annie's eyesight worsened from trachoma. When she was ten, her alcoholic father deserted the family; Annie and her siblings were sent to the Massachusetts State Infirmary.
When she was fourteen, Annie Sullivan became a student at the Perkins Institute for the Blind. Several operations slightly improved her sight. When she was twenty, Annie graduated from the Perkins Institute, first in her class. In 1887 she went to be teacher and companion to seven-year-old, blind and deaf Helen Keller, who was incorrigible and seemingly unreachable. Annie was called "a miracle worker" for helping the girl discover that words stood for things. Helen Keller quickly learned to communicate.
Annie accompanied the younger girl to the Perkins Institute, then Radcliffe College and read from textbooks to her student. When Annie married John Macy (who had edited Helen's book, The Story of My Life), the three lived together as family. Annie and Helen traveled extensively for speaking engagements. After nine years of marriage, Annie and John separated. Annie's eyes failed and Helen taught her Braille.
Annie Sullivan Macy died on October 20, 1936.