May 20, 2022

New Digital Collection: Helen Keller’s Handwritten History Now Open to View Online

From a News Release:

For the first time ever, the extensive 1880s-era correspondence between Helen Keller, her teacher Anne Sullivan and Sullivan’s mentor at Perkins School for the Blind, Michael Anagnos, are available online. An unusual collaboration between the American Antiquarian Society (AAS)  and Perkins harnesses the power of social media to create a revealing new online exhibit that unites previously separate collections in a single online showcase at: The announcement is timely, since October is both World Blindness Awareness Month and American Archives Month.


Thanks to a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, Perkins will digitize selected 19th century materials in its archives, such as the 1886-1895 correspondence between Perkins second director, Michael Anagnos, and Helen Keller’s parents, as well as a series of missives between Anagnos and Sullivan, all of which illuminate Keller’s early education. Also included in this collection are some of the earliest letters written by Helen Keller herself, when she was between the ages of 8 and 11 years old. Her letters to Anagnos show the great bond of affection between the two. Written in Helen’s own hand, these astonishing letters display the child’s exceptional intelligence. One is even written in French. They demonstrate her playful sense of humor, as well as her curious and eager mind.

Sullivan’s letters to Anagnos outline her challenges, her triumphs, and her joy at Helen’s rapid progress. In her first letter written March 13, 1887, less than two weeks after the novice tutor arrived at the Kellers’ Alabama home, Sullivan writes of the child, “I find considerable trouble in controlling her.” Not long after that, however, she bursts with enthusiasm, writing, “Never did a teacher have more reason to be proud of a pupil. A sweeter or brighter child it would be impossible to find…” The evidence of wisdom gained by human struggle in the collected correspondence is both instructive and inspirational. Later in life, Keller wrote, “Usefulness, I believe, is the highest joy…” How fitting that others can now use and learn from these documents from her childhood.

Read the Complete Announcement

Direct to New Digital Collection (via Flickr)

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.