What happened at the institution where Annie grew up that she says made her strong?  2nd question is in Act 3, Scene 3

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Annie endured unspeakable atrocities at the state almshouse:  a similar type of asylum to the one where the Kellers were going to send Helen.  Annie tells the Kellers about her past as she requests "complete charge" of Helen and asks for permission to live with Helen in the hunting house nearby.  Captain Keller threatens to say "no," so Annie reveals "what Helen will find there, not on visiting days" (77).  There is no better language than Annie's in regards to these atrocities:

One ward was full of the--old women, crippled, blind, most of them dying, but even if what they had was catching there was nowhere else to move them, and that's where they put us.  There were younger ones across the hall, prostitutes mostly, with T.B., and epileptic fits, and a couple of the kind who--keep after other girls, especially young ones, and some insane.  Some just had the D.T.'s.  The youngest were in another ward to have babies they didn't want, they started at thirteen, fourteen.  They'd leave afterwards, but the babies stayed and we played with them, too, though a lot of them had--sores all over from diseases you're not supposed to talk about, but not many of them lived  The first year we had eighty, seventy died.  The room Jimmie and I played in was the deadhouse, where they kept the bodies till they could dig the graves. (77-78)

Can one think of a bigger nightmare?  The very worst of the gravely ill, both young and old shared the same living space with Annie.  Incredibly infectious diseases swarmed around her in addition to the absolute worst in secular morality and the worst mortality rate in the history of the world!  And, of course, it is after this soliloquy that Annie says, "No, it made me strong."  In reality, Annie is literally forcing Captain Keller to agree to her demands in regards to Helen.  Who would consider sending their child to such a place after Annie reveals the truth?

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The Miracle Worker

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