|John Albert Macy (1877-1932) son of Powell Macy (1844-19?) and Janet Foster Patten (1846-1930) born in Detroit, Michigan.|
|Anne Sullivan with Helen Keller|
J A Macy Draft
In 1895, John was admitted on a scholarship to Harvard University where he achieved an outstanding academic and extracurricular record. Not only did he win the coveted Phi Beta Kappa key, but he was also editor-in-chief of the Harvard Advocate.
|Obed Macy, b. 15 January 1762, d. 24 December 1844|
|Abigail Pinkham b. 7 December 1764, d. 23 October 1842|
When he was twenty-five years old and an instructor of English at Harvard, he was introduced to Helen Keller, then a student at Radcliffe College, and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, by a good friend, Lenore Smith, who knew Helen could use some help in writing her first book.
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J A Macy author, critic, and poet, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Powell Macy and Janet Foster Patten, the descendants of early New England settlers long associated with the whaling industry. John Macy grew up in the Boston area and attended Malden High School in Malden, Massachusetts. Upon graduation in 1895 he enrolled at Harvard on a partial scholarship, majoring in English literature.
Though he had to supplement his scholarship with various jobs, Macy excelled at his studies and was an outstanding student. He was also a leader in extracurricular activities and a member of several elite campus clubs. He served as editor in chief of the school newspaper, the Harvard Advocate; edited the satirical magazine the Harvard Lampoon; and was named the class poet. Graduating with honors in 1899, he was also elected to Phi Beta Kappa.
Macy remained at Harvard following graduation, teaching in the English department for several years and earning a master of arts degree in 1900. The following year he became an associate editor of a prominent children's magazine, Youth's Companion, headquartered in Boston. While still at Harvard, Macy had been introduced to the celebrated blind deaf mute Helen Keller, who was then attending Radcliffe College, the women's division of Harvard. A mutual friend, Lenore Smith, thought that Macy would be able to help Keller write her autobiography.
Macy was fascinated by Keller, whose triumph over severe handicaps--made possible by the devotion of Annie Sullivan, who had taught her to read and write--made her an international heroine. Agreeing wholeheartedly to the task, Macy learned the manual language used to communicate with the blind and deaf. Working closely with Sullivan, Keller's companion as well as her teacher, Macy helped Keller write and edit the book and also acted as its agent, securing a lucrative contract with the New York publishing firm Doubleday, Page & Co. Keller's The Story of My Life proved a sensation when it was serialized in the Ladies' Home Journal in 1902, and the autobiography garnered even greater acclaim when it was published in book form early the following year.
|Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan Macy, Mark Twain, John Macy at Stormfield (Redding, Connecticut)|
Macy's collaboration with Keller and Sullivan brought them into intimate contact, and the three formed a close attachment to one another. Continuing to assist Keller with her writing--he also published several articles about Keller under his own name--Macy became a de facto part of the Keller-Sullivan household, first in Cambridge and then in Wrentham, Massachusetts, where the two women shared a cottage. Macy desired a permanent relationship, and that meant marriage to Annie Sullivan, since both Sullivan and Keller, as well as Keller's family, believed that Keller's handicaps precluded her from marrying. Indeed, the two women were inseparable and thought of themselves as one person. Sullivan refused Macy's advances for several years, partly on the grounds that she was eleven years his senior. Eventually, however, she consented, and they were married in 1905.
The unusual nature of the Macy-Sullivan marriage made the relationship a difficult one to sustain. Keller was central to Sullivan's life--the women were constantly together, with Keller even accompanying Macy and Sullivan on their honeymoon--and Sullivan ruled the household as a consequence. Macy and Sullivan had little time for themselves, and, according to numerous biographers, their interactions were damaged by Sullivan's acknowledged moodiness and frequent outbursts of bad temper. A woman who was partially blind herself and had survived, against all odds, a horrific childhood, Sullivan was a gifted teacher but an understandably flawed human being. The marriage frayed, and there were intermittent separations. By 1914 Macy had left the household permanently to live on his own. The couple had no children. Macy had developed a drinking problem as he coped with the stress of his marriage, and his reliance on alcohol to relieve personal anguish persisted for the remainder of his life.
From his days at Harvard Macy had become increasingly interested in politics. By 1909 he was openly avowing an allegiance to socialism, perhaps partly as a consequence of his impoverished background. He shared his enthusiasm for socialism with Keller and Sullivan, and a major consequence of his relationship with Keller was her conversion to the socialist cause, an attachment she held throughout her life. (Sullivan, conservative and skeptical, refused to become a partisan.)
During his years with Youth's Companion Macy was a frequent contributor of literary essays to leading publications, including the Atlantic Monthly. In 1907 he published his first book, Edgar Allan Poe, a well-received critical study of the author. In 1909, a year after leaving Youth's Companion, he published his second book, A Child's Guide to Reading. After taking time off from literature in 1912 to serve as secretary to George R. Lunn, the socialist mayor of Schenectady, New York, Macy gained widespread critical attention with the publication of his third book, The Spirit of American Literature (1913). The work championed a new realism in American writing and singled out for praise both Edith Wharton and Theodore Dreiser, who would eventually be acknowledged as major contributors to the American literary canon.
After a brief stint as literary editor of the Boston Herald newspaper (1913-14), politics as well as literature became Macy's focus. Increasingly opposed to warfare, he tried to join an American ambulance corps serving in France during World War I but could not afford the travel expenses: an appeal to his Harvard classmates for financial support went unheeded. Macy further alienated himself from the then conservative university when he published Socialism in America (1916), a sympathetic history of the movement in the United States. The book reportedly caused such consternation among alumni that he was later denied membership in the Harvard Club of New York.
Increasingly devoted to a belief in service to society, Macy focused his next book, Walter James Dodd: A Biographical Sketch (1918), on one of his own personal heroes, a pioneering roentgenologist. He continued to write essays on both literary and political subjects, and in 1922, two years after moving to New York City, he became literary editor of the Nation, a left-leaning, vintage political weekly. The association lasted only a year, in part because Macy, always sympathetic to the underdog, assigned reviews on the basis of personal need rather than expertise on the part of the reviewer.
After moving to New York in 1920 Macy had begun a relationship with a young sculptor who was also a deaf mute; the couple had a daughter together. Macy begged Sullivan for a divorce but she refused. The sculptor, whose name has not been publicly revealed, died in the late 1920s, leaving Macy to care for the child.
Hard-pressed to earn a living, Macy wrote several notable works for hire during the 1920s, including the essay "Journalism," published in Harold E. Stearns, ed., Civilization in the United States, an Inquiry by Thirty Americans (1922), and the book Massachusetts (1923), part of the history series These United States, edited by a friend, the future politician Ernest Gruening. During the 1920s he also published The Critical Game (1922), a collection of literary essays, and The Story of the World's Literature (1925), a handbook for the general reader. In 1926 Macy finally achieved stable employment when he became a literary editor at the publishing house William Morrow & Company, and that association continued until his death.
Macy was also the author of About Women (1930), a somewhat reactionary volume that criticized the feminist movement and called upon American men to resist what he called the feminization of American culture. With Blanche Colton Williams he co-authored Do You Know English Literature? (1930), another essay collection aimed at the general reader. In addition, he was the editor of American Writers on American Literature (1931), calling in his preface for a robust, lively literary criticism freed from academic restraints and accessible to the public.
Although Macy was in declining health for many years because of his alcoholism, his sudden death from a heart attack was unexpected. It occurred, appropriately, during a lecture series on American literature that he was presenting to trade unionists in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.
Limited biographical information on Macy can be found in the archives of Harvard University. A brief sketch of his life and career is included in George E. DeMille, Literary Criticism in America; a Preliminary Survey (1931). Although Macy was considered a major literary critic at the time of his death--one of the most important in America, according to his obituary in the New York Times, 27 Aug. 1932--he is now remembered mostly for his association with Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan. There are numerous biographies of Keller and Sullivan that discuss their relationships with Macy; the most reliable, extensive, and informative is Joseph P. Lash's monumental study Helen and Teacher: The Story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan Macy (1980). See also Nella Braddy, Anne Sullivan Macy: The Story behind Helen Keller (1933). In addition to the New York Times obituary, see death notices for Macy in Publishers' Weekly, 3 Sept. 1932, and the Nation, 4 Oct 1922.
By Ann T. Keene
John Macy swiftly learned the manual alphabet to communicate directly with the then twenty-two-year-old Helen Keller. He helped her edit her book The Story of My Life, which was published in its entirety by Doubleday, Page and Company in 1903. Macy married Anne Sullivan.
|Portrait of Anne Sullivan, circa 1887|
From The House in Wrentham
Today’s Heroine – Anne Sullivan Macy (1866-1936)
Letter from John Albert Macy to Alexander Graham Bell, April 4, 1903
Mrs. Macy Is Dead; Aided Miss KellerOctober 21, 1936
BY THE NEW YORK TIMES Mrs. Anne Mansfield Sullivan Macy, who for nearly fifty years was the kindly, patient and brilliant teacher of Miss Helen Keller, noted blind and deaf woman, died yesterday at their home, 71-11 Seminole Avenue, Forest Hills, Queens. She had been suffering from a heart ailment, which became acute early this Summer. Mrs. Macy was 70 years old.Mrs. Macy taught Miss Keller to read, speak and know the world about her by use of her fingertips. Their lifelong devotion to each other was internationally famous and one was seldom seen or heard of without the other. Blindness, which had shadowed the child Anne Sullivan's life and which she had conquered before she met Miss Keller, had returned to darken her last days, and Miss Keller had to become the teacher and Mrs. Macy the pupil.
Miss Keller yesterday paid this tribute: "Teacher is free at least from pain and blindness. I pray for strength to endure the silent dark until she smiles upon me again."
Miss Polly Thompson, Miss Keller's secretary, said yesterday that Miss Keller was "bearing up magnificently" under her loss. During the last week Miss Keller was almost constantly at Mrs. Macy's side. Mrs. Macy was in a coma from Thursday until she died. On Wednesday she said: "Oh, Helen and Polly, my children, I pray God will unite us in His love."
Mrs. Macy, so long the link to light for Miss Keller, lost the sight of her own right eye in 1929, due partly to a cataract, for which an operation was performed. In May, 1935, a cataract operation was done on her left eye, but thereafter she was able to distinguish only light and color with it. She could no longer read or guide her beloved Miss Keller, who, despite her own handicaps, devoted herself to her friend.
Pupil Guides Teacher in Braille As early as 1933 Miss Keller had commenced to teach Mrs. Macy to read Braille. But the Braille system had changed since Mrs. Macy taught it to Miss Keller and the teacher found it difficult.
When it became known that year that Miss Keller, who had been led out of the black silence in which she had existed since childhood by the ingenuity, perseverance and patience of her teacher, was in turn preparing her teacher to "see" with her fingers, THE NEW YORK TIMES, in an editorial, said:
"The 'blind leading the blind' will henceforth have a new meaning wherever the story of Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller is known. They who have been exiled from the light have been able to demonstrate the power of the mind to overcome limitation."
Mrs. Macy was 21 years old when she met Helen Keller. Born in Feeding Hills, near Springfield, Mass., on April 14, 1866, the daughter of Irish immigrants, John and Mary Mansfield Sullivan, Mrs. Macy suffered the loss of her mother when a young child. For a year or two she was supported by poor relatives, but at the age of 10 she was sent to the State Infirmary, Tewksbury, Mass.
She was already partially blind and at the infirmary two eye operations were performed, but her sight did not improve. She was led to believe that Frank B. Sanborn, chairman of the State Board of Charities, who sometimes visited the infirmary, might be able to aid her. She pleaded with him and he arranged for her entry into the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston, where lived Laura Bridgman, blind and deaf, who had been trained there.
Underwent Two Eye Operations Mrs. Macy entered the Perkins Institution in 1880, made there a brilliant scholastic record and learned to study with her fingers, and later, after two operations had restored her sight, to use her eyes. She learned the manual, or finger, alphabet, so as to be able to talk to Laura Bridgman. In 1886 she was graduated as valedictorian of her class.
Not long after her graduation Helen Keller's father wrote to the institution asking for help for her. Miss Sullivan was chosen to be her teacher and, after familiarizing herself with the details of her new work, went to Helen's home in Tuscumbia, Ala.
The two who were to mean so much to each other until Mrs. Macy's death yesterday met first on March 3, 1887, three months before Helen was 7 years old. Miss Keller said later that it was "the most important day I remember in all my life."
Working carefully, so as to bring Helen under some sort of discipline without breaking her spirit, Mrs. Macy began spelling words into her hand. With no understanding of what they meant, Helen began repeating them.
The teacher persisted, spelling the word doll when she gave her a doll, bread when she gave her bread, candy when she gave her candy. In less than a month Helen realized that everything had a name and that she had a way, the finger alphabet, of calling the names.
Teaching Along New Paths One day Mrs. Macy tried to teach Helen the difference between a cup and the water in the cup. She took her to a pump, pumped water over one hand and spelled water into the other hand. Helen at last understood. She pointed to Miss Sullivan, who spelled teacher, and "teacher" she was to the close.
Mrs. Macy educated Helen, using always the finger spelling, but treating her like any other child. After preliminary lessons in speaking, Helen learned from Mrs. Macy to converse and even speak from a platform.
Teacher and pupil remained for a time at the Perkins Institution. Then, in 1894, Helen was enrolled in the Wright-Humason Oral School for the Deaf in New York. Later Miss Sullivan took her to a school in Cambridge to prepare her for Radcliffe College and finally Helen passed triumphantly her entrance examinations, entered Radcliffe and in 1904 was graduated cum laude.
Throughout the college course Mrs. Macy was with Helen, spelling into her hands the words of the textbooks and the books of required reading. Miss Keller's career thereafter brought her more and more into the public eye. She became famous as an author, she raised huge sums for the blind, she traveled, she was everywhere acclaimed, and Mrs. Macy went everywhere with her.
"My own life," Mrs. Macy said once, "is so interwoven with my Helen's life that I can't separate myself from her."
Honored by Foreign Lands When Mrs. Macy's sixty-seventh birthday was celebrated Miss Keller proposed a toast:
"Here's to my teacher, whose birthday was the Easter morning of my life."
In 1931 Mrs. Macy received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Temple University and the Order of St. Sava from the King of Yugoslavia.
In 1932 she became an honorary fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland. Mrs. Macy stayed in seclusion for several months in 1933 in Scotland while Miss Keller nursed her. Mrs. Macy's blindness grew more pronounced and on her return from Scotland she said:
"Helen is and always has been thoroughly well behaved in her blindness as well as her deafness, but I'm making a futile fight of it, like a bucking bronco. It's not the big things in life that one misses through loss of sight, but such little things as being able to read. And I have no patience, like Helen, for the Braille system, because I can't read fast enough."
Early this month the Roosevelt Memorial Association announced that Roosevelt medals "for a cooperative achievement of heroic character and far-reaching significance" would be presented to Miss Keller and Mrs. Macy. In a telegram of sympathy to Miss Keller yesterday Hermann Hagedorn, executive director of the association, said that presentation to Miss Keller would be postponed from Oct. 27 to next year.
Mrs. Macy was married to John Albert Macy, author and critic, in 1905. He died in 1932. There are no immediate survivors.
A funeral service will be conducted at 2 P. M. tomorrow at the Park Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1,010 Park Avenue, by the Rev. Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick and the Rev. Edmund M. Wylie, the pastor.
After the service, cremation will take place, in accord with Mrs. Macy's wish, at the Fresh Pond Crematory, Queens.
The honorary pallbearers will be M. C. Migel, president of the American Foundation for the Blind, which Miss Keller and Mrs. Macy greatly aided; Robert Irwin, executive director of the foundation; Harvey D. Gibson, Russell Doubleday, Dr. Conrad Berens, Dr. Philip S. Smith, Dr. William F. Saybolt, Dr. John H. Finley, Louis Bamberger, the Rev. Dr. Edward E. Allen, director emeritus of the Perkins Institution; Dr. William Allan Neilson, president of Smith College, and William Ziegler Jr.
From the Scrapbooks of DOR @ the Macy Colby House archives some great info on descendants of Thomas Macy