Helen Keller's Water Pump – Tuscumbia, Alabama - Atlas Obscura

Helen Keller's Water Pump

Tuscumbia, Alabama

Underneath this water pump, Annie Sullivan helped Keller speak her first words.  

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Helen Keller was born on a farm in Alabama where this water pump sits behind the home for all to see and enjoy.

At just 19 months old, Keller became sick with scarlet fever. Though she eventually recovered, the illness left her blind and deaf. At the age of six, Helen’s parents arranged for a 20-year-old teacher named Anne Sullivan to come live with them and teach Keller. 

With great patience and determination, Keller learned to communicate with the outside world. Before her sickness, she only had a brief experience with spoken words or language of any kind. But as fate would have it, underneath this water pump is where Sullivan taught Keller her first word.

Sullivan placed Keller’s hands under the spout, and as the water began to flow Sullivan spelled into one of Keller’s hands the word “water.” First at a slow pace over and over then rapidly. Until the signals took shape and had meaning to Helen. 

As Keller described it in her own words: “I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy set it free.”  

Know Before You Go

Helen Keller's Birthplace is nestled right in the middle of beautiful Tuscumbia Alabama.


The home hosts daily tours and in these tours, you get an informative tour of the home and grounds of which you will get to view the water pump.


The home has free parking in the front. For information on the tours check out the website: helenkellerbirthplace.org

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April 24, 2023

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