In 1887 Annie Sullivan arrives in Tuscumbia, Alabama, to undertake the seemingly impossible task of teaching deaf, blind, 7-year-old Helen Keller "language" through the sense of touch. Blind herself as a child and hardened by both her early years in institutions and the death of her younger, crippled brother, Annie realizes that if Helen is to be helped she must be removed from the pampering influence of her mother and the shouting domination of her father. Though Annie succeeds in getting the family to allow her 2 weeks alone with Helen in a small garden house on the Keller property, the high-spirited and strong-willed child opposes her at every turn. At the end of the 2 weeks, however, Helen has learned to dress herself, eat with a fork, and understand the alphabet of touch. She is still unable, however, to comprehend that the words she spells are names for the objects she touches. Annie asks for another week alone with Helen, but the parents, seeing the progress that has been made, insist on bringing the child back into the household. There, she attempts to revert to her former willful savagery, but Annie again opposes her. Following an outburst at the dining room table, Annie drags the child to the pump on the front lawn and forces her to refill a pitcher from which she spilled the water. As the water pours over her hands, the sudden realization that what she feels is w-a-t-e-r dawns on the child, and she grasps Annie's hand and spells out the word. Wildly excited, Helen races about spelling the name of everything she touches--pump, tree, porch, bell, mother, father. Finally, Annie identifies herself by spelling out "teacher."