Ivy Green

Ivy Green with sign in front "Miss Helen Keller."

My daughter, Talia, says I enjoy “stories of people overcoming incredible obstacles.” She kind of teases me about that, but I have to agree with her. I do like those kind of stories.

So, what better way to enjoy my birthday than to visit “Ivy Green.”

Ivy Green is the birthplace of Helen Keller. It is located in Tuscumbia, Alabama, which was about 50 miles from our campsite in Corinth. We had planned a day trip to visit.

The Garden with a huge urn of overflowing ivy.
Ivy grew abundantly on the property,
thus the name, Ivy Green.

I called “Ivy Green” the day before just to confirm it would be open. I asked what time the tours started, and the friendly lady on the phone said, “The tour starts whenever you get here.” Well, that works with our schedule, but it also sounded like there wouldn’t be a lot of people there.

The tour did start upon our arrival, but, surprisingly, our group had about 20 people in it. As such, we started outside the main home, with our tour guide talking about Helen Keller and “Ivy Green” for a good 20 minutes. Afterwards, we were free to roam the main house, the cottage and the grounds.

This is the place where Helen Keller was born, became blind and deaf, and later, through her dedicated teacher, Anne Sullivan, had the world opened up to her through the power of language and of love.

Dining Room
The Cottage

We saw the dining room where Anne insisted on disciplining Helen and after several exhausting hours, Helen folded her napkin for the very first time.

We looked in at the bedroom shared by Anne and Helen and where Helen locked Anne in on the day she arrived. A ladder was needed to get Anne out of the room.

And I laid my hand on the very same pump handle where Anne Sullivan had placed her hand on that wonderful day when Helen made the connection and began to understand the meaning of words.

Here’s some of what I learned that day:

The Pump
  • Helen Keller became blind and deaf due to an illness she had when she was 19 months old. Today, it is thought she had either scarlet fever or meningitis.
  • Helen Keller knew a few words, such as “wa wa” (water) before contracting the illness.
  • Helen Keller’s mother was a descendant of John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States.
  • Alexander Graham Bell worked with deaf people throughout his life. Helen’s parents were referred to Bell. Bell then referred the family to the Perkins Institution in Boston which sent Anne Sullivan to teach Helen.
  • Alexander Graham Bell and Helen Keller became life long friends.
  • Anne Sullivan was only 20 years old when she came to teach Helen.
  • Helen Keller challenged the Lions Club at an international convention to become the “Knights of the Blind in the crusade against darkness.” The Lions Club adopted this mission in response, and it is still its mission today.
  • Helen Keller is buried in the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., along with her teacher, Anne Sullivan, and her assistant, Polly Thomson. Helen agreed to be buried in the National Cathedral but only if her teacher and her assistant were buried there as well. Helen died in 1968.

We also learned one other thing about Helen Keller.

Helen's Keller's actual Scrabble game.

Helen Keller played Scrabble! Dan and I love to play Scrabble!

Visiting an historical house is one of my favorite ways to learn the stories of long ago. When I see the actual places, history is not just facts and dates, but rather it is a story about people and the places and the times they lived in.

Imagine the heartbreak of parents whose healthy baby suddenly loses all sight and hearing. I think of how determined they must have been to search for ways to help their child and how fortunate they were to have the means to do so.

Think of Anne Sullivan, just twenty years old, having the confidence to stand up to Helen’s parents, specifically her father, and tell them what needs to be done. What joy Anne must have felt when Helen had her breakthrough moment at the water pump.

Marble statue of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller at the water pump where the breakthrough moment occurred.

I thoroughly enjoyed our day at Ivy Green. I saw the actual places where these events happened. I heard several stories, including those of Anne Sullivan’s patience and persistence and also, of Helen’s mischief.

But, most importantly, I felt in my heart the inspiration of human triumph over adversity, of determination, of dedication, of learning and of service to others.

Bust of Helen Keller in the outside garden.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.

Helen Keller

36 comments

    • Thanks, Phil. Dan had never seen “The Miracle Worker”, so after visiting “Ivy Green”, we watched it on YouTube. It had been so long since I had seen it, too. We really enjoyed it. I want to read Helen’s autobiography now. Hope you have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, Betty- I love this piece more than I can find words to tell you! You did an incredible job moving my spirit with your telling of this story. Thank you! And Happiest Birthday!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cathy, thank you so much for your comment. Saying that my post moved your spirit makes me happy and makes my day! You are a kind soul. And thank you for the birthday wishes. It was a very good day! Enjoy your day, too!

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    • Yes, that was her game! It was in the museum room. It was in a glass case on the same wall as the door, on the left as you went in. Next to Scrabble, was a deck of playing cards, too! fyi – We are traveling, so I am behind in reading posts. I haven’t forgotten your post about Ivy Green. I should be getting to it in a day or two. We’ll be at one place for 2 weeks, so I should be able to get caught up. I am looking forward to reading your post about Ivy Green. Have a great day!

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    • Thank you, Terry. Everything I listed was something I learned. 🙂 The grounds were really beautiful as well. And one thing I didn’t mention was that on the grounds was a “moon tree.” A seed that was taken to the moon and then planted there. There is also an outside production of the “The Miracle Worker” play for several weeks during the summer. We saw the outdoor theater. It is a really neat place.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Yes, I did not realize there were “moon trees.” Best Wishes from the other side of the world! P.S. I have a niece and family who live in Sydney! Maybe you know them. 🙂 ha ha

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  2. Interesting read! Thanks for sharing!

    Your comment about Helen Keller challenging the Lions Club at an international convention “to become the ‘Knights of the Blind’ in the crusade against darkness.” made me think of their eyeglass collections that they have. They collect used eyeglasses that have corrective lenses and I’ve donated a few pairs of my own! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are welcome. So, now you know you are contributing to the mission for which Helen Keller cared so deeply. 🙂 I thought of those eyeglass collection cans, too. Thanks for reading, Jennifer, and have a great day!

      Like

    • Thank you. I really enjoyed seeing Ivy Green. Yes, I had a birthday. For me, a fun activity is what I want for my birthday. Just like, Barb, if I recall correctly. I believe she went to Disney Springs for her special day. Fun with the ones we love is what we want! Have a good Wednesday!

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  3. I love learning about the people who lived in historic houses. Touring the homes and imagining their lives bring the homes alive. I’ll have to add this one to my list.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was so much more that I learned and that we saw, but, as you know, a blog post is just meant to capture a memory and pique interest (hopefully.) Ivy Green really is a treasure – inside and out. Enjoy your day!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There are very few people that I am truly in awe of – Helen Keller was one of them. I didn’t realize her home is so close to me. We’re planning to visit a friend in Alabama this year; I’ll add Ivy Green to my list of places to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Someone mentioned “The Miracle Worker”. I have seen that movie. I enjoyed the movie. I never knew there was a Helen Keller museum. What you shared in your blog is fascinating. I would visit there, too, if it were closer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Who knows what travels lay ahead for us! We watched the movie again after visiting there. Helen Keller died in 1968. To me, that doesn’t seem like that long ago. But I guess, it is.

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    • Thank you, Mary. I was struck that Anne Sullivan was only 20 upon her arrival. She was really wise for her age and had the confidence, too. Dan had not seen the movie, but after visiting Ivy Green, he wanted to see it. So, we rented it from Youtube and watched it. It had been so long since I had seen it. It is a great movie about two amazing people. I am glad you enjoyed the post!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. As someone who enjoys travels specifically to see beautiful things and places, I had to stop for a moment and give some thought after reading Helen’s quote. Seeing beautiful things is one thing, but feeling it is quite another. I think this may explain why I sometimes get emotional and feel overwhelming bliss when I see something beautiful. It is experiencing beauty with the heart. 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree. Haven’t you seen people who don’t have that emotional response when seeing something beautiful? They say, it’s nice and move on. I feel they are missing something, but that’s them. I am glad to have the passion. Your passion comes through in your writing which makes it so very moving.

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