When only five years old, she contracted a bacterial eye disease known as trachoma, which caused many painful infections and over time made her nearly blind. When she was eight, her mother died from tuberculosis, and her father abandoned the children two years later for fear he could not raise them on his own. She and her younger brother, James (Jimmie), were sent to the run-down and overcrowded almshouse in Tewksbury, Massachusetts (today part of Tewksbury Hospital). (Their younger sister, Mary, was left to an aunt. ) Jimmie had a weak hip condition and died from tuberculosis four months into their stay. Anne remained at the Tewksbury after his death and endured two unsuccessful eye operations.