The Touch of Magic by Lorena Hickok
The book I chose to read is called The Touch of Magic written by Lorena
A. Hickok. The story was about Anne Sullivan Macy, Helen Keller’s wonderful
teacher. I had never heard of Anne before I read this book, but while looking
in the library my mom explained to me who she was and she seemed like she would
be an interesting person to do it on. I was right.
Anne Sullivan Macy was born on April 14, 1866 in Feeding Hills,
Massachusetts. At the age of nine she was taken to the outskirts of Tewksbury,
Massachusetts with her three year old brother Jimmie. There, they were sent to
the Massachusetts State Infirmary. Not because they were mentally sick or
anything, but because they had nowhere else to go.
Their mother had died of tuberculosis and their father had left them.
None of their relatives wanted them because Annie was nearly blind and Jimmie
had something wrong with his hip and had to walk with a crutch. Annie’s one
year old sister was taken right away by her aunt and uncle because she was
darling. Nobody knew where to send them so that’s how she ended up at the
A few months after they had arrived, Jimmie got deathly ill. The doctor’
s couldn’t do anything for him and unfortunately he past away. Annie took this
unbelievably hard for she had realized that Jimmie was the only thing she had
Annie’s attitude then worsened even more because she felt she had
nothing left. She would throw hissy fits at the nurses and kick and scream.
Believe it or not, this is one of the character traits that I most admire about
Miss Macy. She was aggressive and didn’t let anyone tell her what to do. Even
though she could hardly see, she lived her own life in her own little world.
Another trait that I admire about her is that she was a dreamer. I know
I am a big dreamer and can get lost in my thoughts sometimes, but her dreams
weren’t like mine. Annie dreamt of being able to see, but most often dreamt of
going to school. Annie wanted to learn but had no one to teach her.
One day, about a year after Jimmie’s death, the State Board of Charities
came by to look around. Annie was so excited because she heard they might be
able to send her to school. When they were leaving she jumped in front of them
and yelled out that she wanted to go to school. The men asked her what was
wrong with her and she explained to them that she was nearly blind.
A few days later, after Annie thought she had blown her chance of ever
going to school, a girl from the ward came saying that Annie was to go to school.
Annie was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to go. This is the first major event that
I think led to Annie’s success.
The day finally came and Annie arrived at the Perkins Institution for
the Blind in South Boston around noon. She didn’t like it at first but later
became quite popular. While the other girls stayed in nice cottages, Annie
stayed in an old cottage with fifty year old Laura Bridgman. Laura was blind,
deaf, and dumb.
Laura Bridgman had gone to that school forty some years earlier and was
taught the manual alphabet. This is where you communicate by spelling words on
each other’s palms and then feel an object to know that the word spelled is the
Annie was simply fascinated with this way of communicating that she
learned the manual alphabet. That’s why I think Laura was the person who had the
greatest influence on Annie. Annie would spend hours talking with Laura. She
would tell Laura what was going on in school and things around them and Laura
would share her thoughts and feelings back to Annie.
Annie was good in school and her teachers saw that. She had a hard time
with Braille but after a lot of hard work, she got it. I think that is another
admirable trait about Annie. Her eagerness and willingness to learn. an
education was what she wanted all her life and her dream finally came true.
After she learned Braille, Annie would search the library for books. She loved
Summer quickly came and all the girls, even Laura, left for home. The
teachers refused to send Annie back to Tewksbury so one of them was able to find
her a job doing little work at a rooming house.
One of the roomers, a young man, really took to Annie and felt sorry for
her. One day he told her that he thought he knew of someone who could help her
eyes. Annie agreed to go see Dr. Bradford at the Carney Catholic Hospital. He
insisted on operating even though she explained to him that she had already had
two unsuccessful operations. He convinced her and started work later that
He first cut away the scabs on the insides of her eyelids. This would
stop the scabs from scratching her eyeballs. He said that he would treat her
for a few months and then in a year operate again.
A year passed and Annie, now sixteen, was back. Dr. Bradford felt good
and hopeful that the operation would be successful. After many days of being
bandaged up, the bandages were removed. Afraid to open her eyes, Annie finally
did and was able to see. Not one hundred percent mind you, but she could see
detail and the doctor was smiling. Being able to see is another thing I think
that led up to Annie’s success.
Now that Annie could see she had no reason to go back to school. She
had nowhere to go, so the teachers let her stay and help with the younger kids.
She still attended classes and became so popular that she was voted
Valedictorian in her sixth and final year of school.
The day was so special, but all Annie could think about was what she
would do after school. Annie had no idea what she wanted, but a couple of
teachers said that they might be able to find her a job. Annie didn’t want to
think about it so left for the summer.
During a summer day, a letter came for Annie. It was from her principal
asking her to read the enclosed letter. The letter was from a man from Alabama
asking the Perkins Institute if they could recommend a good teacher for his six
year old daughter. She was deaf, blind, and dumb, her name was Helen Keller.
Twenty year old Annie decided to go. On March 5, 1887 Annie headed out
to Alabama. This, I think would have to be the third event that led up to Annie’
At first Annie thought she could get through to Helen, but later found
that it wouldn’t be that easy. Helen was a dangerous child, like an animal, but
what do you expect if you can’t hear or see? After a few days Annie tried to
get through to her by being gentle, but during one of Helen’s rages she knocked
out Annie’s two front teeth.
Annie decided to take the initiative and tried disciplining Helen.
Something of which her parents never did. She thought it would be best if she
could be alone with Helen so they moved into their own little cottage a few
minutes away from Helen’s parents.
Annie started teaching Helen the manual alphabet that she had learned
from Laura Bridgman. Helen was able spell things back, but still they had no
meaning to her. About a month after Annie’s arrival, Helen finally figured out
that the word Annie was spelling was the word of the object she held in her hand.
Soon after this Helen starting writing in Braille. A lot of it didn’t make
sense, but as she was learning sentences it got better.
After about a year of working with Helen, Annie decided to take her to
Boston. They didn’t spend long there, but Helen soon became a celebrity.
Everyone was interested in Helen, who wouldn’t be?
During their long time of fame, Helen and Annie met a lot of neat,
interesting people including a very nice young man named John Macy. He worked
for a magazine and was one of the greatest supporters Helen and Annie ever had.
When Helen grew up, John decided that he would ask Annie to marry him. Annie at
first wasn’t sure because he was eleven years younger than her. She finally
said yes and they were married on May 2, 1905. Annie was now thirty-nine and
John was twenty-eight.
The marriage only lasted eight years before John decided to sail to
Europe. It wasn’t a divorce, but more of a separation. Annie knew that she
could count on him if she needed anything, so it wasn’t like they hated each
other, it just didn’t work out.
Annie and Helen spent the rest of their lives together touring the
United States and parts of Canada, talking to people and doing presentations.
Annie off and on during these years, got sick. Sometimes really bad and
sometimes just little colds. On October 19, 1936, it was different. A couple
of days before, Annie had seemed happy and was laughing and smiling just like
her old self. On that night though, she slipped into a coma and never woke up
again. She had quietly past away, but lived a good, long life of seventy years.
Helen was fifty-six.
I really enjoyed reading this book and would definitely recommend it to
anyone who likes an interesting true story. The book taught me a lot about the
blind and deaf and how they cope with their unfortunate handicap. It taught me
that even though you might have a handicap nothing is impossible. As long as
you put your mind to it you can do anything. Anyone who likes an inspirational
novel would love this book.