Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Civil Rights Memorial: Anne Sullivan & Helen Keller - Tewksbury, MA

Interesting Places I've Photographed
Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller Memorial
Tewksbury, MA
Topic: Civil Rights Memorial

GPS: N42° 36.723; W071° 14.043

Quick Description: 

This sculpture captures the moment Anne Sullivan successfully teaches Helen Keller her first word - water.

Long Description:

Anne Sullivan (1866-1936) was born on April 14, 1866 in Feeding Hills, Massachusetts. Early in her life she was a resident of the Tewksbury Alms House, now the Tewksbury Hospital. Anne, who was nearly blind from an untreated eye infection, then became a student at the Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. The director of the Institute recommended her to the Keller family as a teacher for the young deafblind Helen Keller (1880-1968) from Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Anne Sullivan's strategy was to teach Helen to communicate by spelling words into her hand. After many unsuccessful attempts Helen finally realized that the motions Anne made in her hand, while running water over her other hand, meant "water". This moment of insight is captured in the sculpture.

Helen went on to become the first deafblind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and became a prolific author, lecturer and social activist. Anne and Helen became lifelong companions and collaborators. Their story is recounted in the 1962 Academy Award winning movie "The Miracle Worker".

The sculpture "Water" is located on the north side of the town hall in Tewksbury, MA. Both Anne Sullivan and young Helen Keller are sitting on the ground with their knees upright. Both are wearing long dresses. Anne's left hand is making the sign for "water" into Helen's right hand while Helen faces the sky.

"Water" is the creation of the Romanian-American sculptor Mico Kaufman. The rough bronze sculpture is 44" high by 5' 9" long. It rests on a polished granite base which is 1' by 8' 1" in. by 4' 5". On the base is inscribed: ANNE SULLIVAN, TEACHER AND HELEN KELLER. A small bronze plaque on the base gives the title "WATER" and the name of the artist MICO KAUFMAN SC. and the date 1985, the year the sculpture was created and dedicated.

The sculpture was a gift, from local citizens to the town of Tewksbury, commemorating the 250th anniversary of the incorporation of the town in 1764. A nearby plaque is inscribed:



followed by 24 double column rows of names.

Civil Right Type: Disability

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