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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

Notable People of Wrentham

As part of Wrentham’s 350th anniversary celebration in 2023, the committee planning next year’s events has asked residents to submit memories of significant people in the town’s history. Following is a submission the anniversary committee shared with Local Town Pages.

Helen Keller

Mark Twain once said that the two most interesting people of the 19th century were Napoleon and Helen Keller. Keller’s fame has faded a little since then, but the story retains its luster, told and retold in books, articles, and movies.

Photo courtesy of the Historical Marker Database.

Helen Adams Keller (June 27, 1880 – June 1, 1968) was an American author, disability rights advocate, political activist, and lecturer. 

Born in West Tuscumbia, Alabama, Keller lost her sight and hearing as a toddler and withdrew into a dark world where she couldn’t communicate with others or understand what was going on around her. She then communicated primarily using home signs until the age of seven when she met her first teacher and life-long companion, Anne Sullivan. Ms. Sullivan, a nearly blind 20-year-old graduate of Perkins Institute for the Blind in Watertown, went to Alabama to be Helen’s tutor, and she eventually broke through to Helen by signing letters into her hand. She also learned how to speak and to understand other people’s speech using the Tadoma method.

Far less well known, though, is Keller’s connection to Wrentham. When Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan first came to Wrentham in 1897, they stayed at Red Farm at 430 Franklin St., the home of Edgar Chamberlain, a literary critic for the Boston Transcript.

After Helen graduated from Radcliffe in 1904, she bought a house in Wrentham, at 349 East St., and she lived there with Sullivan and John Macy, who married Sullivan. Keller stayed until 1917, when the house had to be sold because she ran out of money.

Keller loved Wrentham. “I shall always think of Wrentham as home,” she was quoted as saying.

Submitted by Cheryl Sabin Hobbs from the Wrentham Lions Club. Additional sources: Matt McDonald, Boston Globe correspondent, March 7, 2004.