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

Front Cover
Beacon Press, 2009 - Biography & Autobiography - 299 pages
2 Reviews
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.

What people are saying - Write a review

BEYOND THE MIRACLE WORKER: The Remarkable Life of Anne Sullivan Macy and Her Extraordinary Friendship with Helen Keller

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A largely unsuccessful attempt at a full-scale biography of the difficult, unhappy woman whose life story is inseparable from that of Helen Keller.Called "Teacher" by Keller and popularly known as ... Read full review

Beyond the miracle worker: the remarkable life of Anne Sullivan Macy and her extraordinary friendship with Helen Keller

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

The lives of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan Macy, were so entwined that it is impossible to write about one without the other. Nevertheless, in this concise biography Nielsen (history ... Read full review


Feeding Hills 18661876
Tewksbury Almshouse 18761880
Perkins 18801886 Part One
Perkins 18801886 Part Two
Becoming Teacher 1887
Tuscumbia 18881891
The Battle for Helen Round 1 18911894
The Battle for Helen Round 2 18941900
John 19041914
On the Road 19141924
The American Foundation for the Blind 19241930
Concluding 19301936

Radcliffe 19001904

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2009)

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 forthcomingEncyclopedia 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.

Bibliographic information