In November 2000, I contacted the American Foundation for the Blind
inquiring about the origin of the term "miracle worker" with the
Did the phrase "Miracle Worker" as applied to Annie Sullivan Macy arise
from the inscribed photo Twain gave to her where he wrote:
"To Mrs. John Sullivan Macy, with warm regard and with limitless
admiration of the wonders she has performed as a miracle worker."
According to my sources the date of the inscription was Jan. 11, 1909.
I would appreciate any info you could provide regarding whether or not
this was the first usage of the term as applied to Annie.
The reply I received was from Jessica Mathewson, Manager, Library
Information Resources, American Foundation for the Blind:
Thank you for contacting the American Foundation for the Blind with your
question concerning the origins of the term "miracle worker." I have not
been able to find a definitive answer in my archives. Although I have been
unable to locate an earlier existence of the term in our records, I cannot
prove that it does not exist elsewhere. The papers in our Helen Keller
collection contain significant gaps prior to 1946, due to a fire in Miss
Keller's NY home.
Mark Twain did use the phrase "miracle-worker" in "The Memorable
Assassination" written in 1898 and again in regard to "organization"
in "Papers of the Adam Family" written in 1905-06. However, the photo
inscription in 1909 seems to be the earliest that he used the phrase
in regard to Keller.