About a week ago someone on one of the Lists made me think about "the Miracle Worker." I looked on-line and saw a brief-biography of Anne SULLIVAN. In the paragraphs it was mentioned that she grew up in what is now Agawam, MA. But, while still a child, she went to live at the Tewksbury State Hospital. I became curious about that. Agawam is in Western MA near the CT border and definitely not near Tewksbury. So, I requested a book about her from the library. What I picked up the book on Friday, I was surprised to see a book from the 1930's. I was more surprised when I started reading about Joanne "Annie" SULLIVAN and her Irish parents and her childhood. Talk about "telling it like it is." The author, Nella Braddy, told as many unpleasant details as she could. And, I've only gotten through the first 2 chapters. It is really a history book, discussiong the many people from Ireland arriving in MA just after the "Irish Famine." It discusses where they lived and why in MA. Thomas and Alice (CLOHESY) SULLIVAN arrived to live with or near other SULLIVAN family members. Alice was very young and didn't have family or friend of her own, but she was likable and soon made friends. Thomas was a tall, rugged, hardworker, outdoors-type person who soon became a drunk, etc. They had Joanne "Annie" and then 2 more children. But, Alice had an accident in the home, and she never recovered from her injuries well. She died young. One of her daughters died at 5 from a disease. Her only son was born a cripple. And, Annie became an unruly, temper-tantrum, .bad child. as some considered her.
After Alice died, the father could not take care of his kids, and all the hardworking neighbors / relatives tried to help. But they had problems of their own. Soon one family took in Annie and another family took in her disabled brother, Jimmy. But that didn't work out, so the decision was made to send them to the only "Almshouse" available. So they were put on a train to head to Boston and then to Tewksbury. I won't continue with the unpleasant details of what the "Tewksbury State Hospital" looked like at that time. But the 2 young children were put in the only room available for children who were not really sick - right beside the "Death Room" - where patients were placed when they knew the patients would be passing within days. But, Annie didn't mind so much, as it was in this place that she found out what .love. was.
The book is called: "Anne Sullivan Macy: The Story Behind Helen Keller" from 1938. And, I recommend it as a history book especially around the late 1800's MA. Oh, I forgot to mention that Annie developed a disease as a young child which caused her to become .legally blind. *
Betty (near Lowell, MA)
(on Lists and Boards for 10 yrs.; now an Admin for 9 Lists and 3 Boards)
It was even mentioned that "hoof and mouth disease" was causing problems with people at that time.
(FYI: Just as Annie's disease was not treated because the family could not afford to call in a doctor, it was around 1912 when my paternal grandmother went sledding one winter, crashed into a tree, and got a head injury. Because her single-parent mother also could not afford to call in a doctor, my grandmother's injury was not treated, and she also became .legally blind.)