What is the relationship between Helen and Martha?

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skipperb | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Before the arrival of her teacher, Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller sought out the companionship of Martha Washington, the African American child of the family cook.

Helen and Martha developed a system of signs to communicate during play, and Martha appeared to tolerate Helen’s eccentric behavior. Helen tells how she used to “double [her] hands and put them on the ground” when she wanted to go egg-hunting with Martha. Helen describes how she cut off all of Martha’s black curls, and Martha proceeded to cut off all of Helen’s curls before her mother intervened. Martha and Helen helped in the kitchen and played in the family stable. Helen admits that she was a domineering child, but it is apparent that Martha and Helen learned to share similar interests and enjoy each other’s company. Martha lived with the Keller family until Helen moved to a larger house before the birth of her sister, Mildred, and the untimely death of her father.

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