The Force of Friendship

Friendship can be forged during any of life's circumstances; most often when we need it most. This month, we're celebrating Women's History Month by featuring two women whose friendship grew out of a place of challenge and changed the world through a friendship based on perseverance and grit. These friends, Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan, were unstoppable. 


 I'm sure that at some point you've heard of these fearless ladies; they're pretty amazing. Even though you may know of them, perhaps you don't know much of their story. As we began to dig deeper into their lives we realized that though we'd learned of this fierce duo in school, we didn't really know the force that these ladies were or just how much they changed the world. Their friendship is an amazing example of what can happen when we come alongside one another and do hard things. Want to know more?

Let's start with Anne Sullivan. The oldest child of Irish immigrants, her early years were like something out of a Charles Dickens novel.  At 5 years old, she contracted a bacterial eye disease that left her partially blind. At 8, her mother died. At 10, her father abandoned her and her brother, landing them in a poorhouse--I never knew such places existed in the US. Three months later, her brother died. Four years later, Anne convinced a poorhouse inspector to enroll her in a school for the blind. She was 14 years old and had no prior education, but there was something intrinsically pushing her to overcome her circumstances. This woman was shaping up to be an unstoppable force. 

Helen Keller was born the same year Anne entered school. At 19 months old, Helen became gravely ill and was left both blind and deaf. This also meant that she was left mute since she hadn't learned to speak yet. And if you can't hear the sounds words make or see how a mouth forms them, how would you learn to speak? Her parents did the best they could to teach their daughter, but she grew increasingly frustrated that she couldn't communicate even her most basic needs (don't we get frustrated when people don't understand us?) and became difficult to deal with. Imagine if you literally had no way to express yourself. Not knowing what to do, Helen's parents reached out to friends who in turn introduced them to Anne Sullivan. Lots of friendships making connections to bring these two women together. 


Perhaps it is at this point that you know the story of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan; Anne works diligently with Helen and eventually teaches her to connect words with objects at a water pump, writing the word 'water' on her hand while it splashes over Helen's palm so she can read and write. But did you know that from here, Anne would help Helen go to college? That in college Anne finger spelled on Helen's palm all of her professor's lectures and all of her text books? As a result, Helen becomes the first blind and deaf person in America to earn a college degree. That, my friends, is friendship. 

Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller's friendship doesn't end there. For years they are companions traveling the globe educating people about life with physical challenges, helping to start schools for the blind and deaf, and advocating for equal treatment of people with physical challenges. Helen Keller even went on to become one of the founding members of the ACLU. 

Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller's friendship extends way beyond the water pump. Theirs was one that started from a shared experience of being without sight, but from there grew into an unstoppable force that brought about change that set the foundation for how we educate, advocate, and accommodate those with physical challenges. 

This month, introduce girls to this dynamic duo. Help them to understand the power of friendship and how people who may have been seen as less than capable are in fact a force to be reckoned with. The Unstoppable Friends crate is on sale NOW through March 15th HERE