Sunday, September 23, 2012

Helen Keller and Ivy Green

I try not to return to places more than once, simply because there are so many places to go. One place has defied this rule, however, and it is Ivy Green, birthplace and home of Helen Keller. I have been many times, and I keep going - with friends and with family. I take them because it is a story that everyone should know. It is a story at which I marvel, and every time I go I'm humbled and amazed and revitalized with possibility.

Helen wrote, "I was born June 27, 1880, in Tuscumbia, a little town in northern Alabama."

Let's go back to Tuscumbia now....

In The Story of My Life, Helen says, "I lived up to the time of my illness that deprived me of my sight and hearing, in a tiny house consisting of a large square room and a small one, in which the servant slept. It is a custom in the South to build a small house near the homestead as an annex to be used on occasion. Such a house my father built after the Civil War, and when he married my mother they went to live in it. It was completely covered with vines, climbing roses, and honeysuckles."

The small early Keller home - Annie Sullivan later took Helen to this house to engender trust.

"The Keller homestead, where the family lived, was a few steps from our little rose bower. It was called 'Ivy Green' because the house and surrounding trees and fences were covered with beautiful English ivy. Its old-fashioned garden was the paradise of my childhood."

Ivy Green - "When I was about five years old we moved from the little vine-covered house..."
The English ivy still covers the fences
Magnolia in the gardens and yard
 Inside Ivy Green...

The entrance hall
Helen's clothing
Annie and Helen's bedroom
The dining room made famous by "The Miracle Worker."

Perhaps the most exciting thing to come across is outside - and it is there for everyone to easily access and touch - after all, touch was the sense that brought Helen out of her darkness and into enlightenment.

The water pump
Annie Sullivan wrote, "I made Helen hold her mug under the spout while I pumped. As the cold water gushed forth, filling the mug, I spelled 'w-a-t-e-r' in Helen's free hand. The word coming so close upon the sensation of cold water rushing over her hand seemed to startle her. She dropped the mug and stood as one transfixed. A new light came into her face. She spelled 'water' several times. Then she dropped on the ground and and asked for its name and pointed to the pump and the trellis, and suddenly turning round she asked for my name. I spelled 'Teacher.'"


  1. After all those years of living in Alabama, a stones throw from Ivy Green, I am sad to say I never visited there. Shame on me.

  2. Still gives me chills every time hearing the pump story. Glad we got to experience Ivy Green together! Here's to many more literary journeys with my big sis! :-)Didn't I take that picture of you? :-) And didn't I pick out that shirt too? lol!

  3. Another great post! I really am sorry I never got to Ivy Green....perhaps I can go there yet!

  4. Helen continue to be an inspiration.
    It does not surprise me that some of those living nearby have failed to find her place. That seems to be the way of life.
    This is a post that is very touching. Thank you for this.

  5. Are you opposed to letting my IT team use some of your photos for the City of Tuscumbia website?

    email me:

    Thank you!