Beyond the Miracle Worker
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Beyond the Miracle Worker : The Remarkable Life of Anne Sullivan Macy and Her Extraordinary Friendship with Helen Keller

By (author) Kim E. Nielsen

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After many years, historian and Helen Keller expert Kim Nielsen realized that she, along with other historians and biographers, had failed Anne Sullivan Macy. While Macy is remembered primarily as Helen Keller's teacher and mythologized as a straightforward educational superhero, the real story of this brilliant, complex, and misunderstood woman, who described herself as a "badly constructed human being," has never been completely told. "Beyond the Miracle Worker," the first biography of Macy in nearly fifty years, complicates the typical Helen-Annie "feel good" narrative in surprising ways. By telling the life from Macy's perspective-not Keller's-the biography is the first to put Macy squarely at the center of the story. It presents a new and fascinating tale about a wounded but determined woman and her quest for a successful, meaningful life. Born in 1866 to poverty-stricken Irish immigrants, the parentless and deserted Macy suffered part of her childhood in the Massachusetts State Almshouse at Tewksbury. Seeking escape, in love with literature, and profoundly stubborn, she successfully fought to gain an education at the Perkins School for the Blind. As an adult, Macy taught Keller, helping the girl realize her immense potential, and Macy's intimate friendship with Keller remained powerful throughout their lives. Yet as Macy floundered with her own blindness, ill health, and depression, as well as a tumultuous and triangulated marriage, she came to lean on her former student, emotionally, physically, and economically. Based on privately held primary source material, including materials at both the American Foundation for the Blind and the Perkins School for the Blind, "Beyond the Miracle Worker" is revelatory and absorbing, unraveling one of the best known-and least understood-friendships of the twentieth century.

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  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 152.4 x 226.06 x 25.4mm | 476.27g
  • 01 May 2010
  • Beacon Press
  • Boston, MA
  • English
  • 4 Black and White Illustrations
  • 0807050504
  • 9780807050507
  • 478,167

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Author Information

Kim E. Nielsen is an award-winning educator, the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities We the People stipend, a Fulbright lecturer, the author of many journal articles, and frequent public speaker. Her books include "Helen Keller: Selected Writings" (2005), "The Radical Lives of Helen Keller"(2004) and "Un-American Womanhood: Antiradicalism, Antifeminism and the First Red Scare" (2001). She also served as an advisory editor to the forthcoming"Encyclopedia of American Disability History" (2009). She lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin where she is Professor of History & Women's Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.""""""""

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Review quote

A remarkable story of a vulnerable woman in a culture that allowed women neither freedom nor power. Still, somehow Anne, an almost blind orphan living in a poorhouse, managed to secure an education and carve out an independent life for herself and her student, Helen Keller. Anne Sullivan Macy is a feminist hero.--Mary Pipher, author of "Reviving Ophelia" and "Seeking Peace" "A considerate yet equitable biography of a complex woman whose singular contributions to the burgeoning field of education for the blind have often been misjudged."--"Booklist" "Nielsen overcomes all the obstacles her recalcitrant subject throws in her path, and creates a portrait of Sullivan's life that is complex with all its contradictions and inconsistencies."--Georgina Kleege, "Disability Studies Quarterly" "Engaging and excellently researched . . . Nielsen shows how tragic Annie's 'secr

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