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Barbara Schmidt <[log in to unmask]>
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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 18 Apr 2008 10:39:24 -0500
TEXT/PLAIN (40 lines)
In November 2000, I contacted the American Foundation for the Blind
inquiring about the origin of the term "miracle worker" with the
following question:

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.