William Gibson


William Gibson (1914–2008)

Gibson was born in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City in 1914. As a child, he fell in love with the library and read whenever he could. He was determined to avoid a soulless desk job, and spent his early years roaming, writing and taking odd jobs: acting, playing piano, and organizing for the Young Communist League. After he met his wife Margaret Brenman, an eminent psychiatrist and social activist, he was able to write full-time. Her work in mental institutions inspired Gibson's first novel, The Cobweb, about the intricate politics of a psychiatric hospital. An immediate hit, the book was adapted into a film by Vincente Minnelli in 1955.

Hollywood fame quickly led to two Broadway hits: The Miracle Worker (1958), which was originally written as a television movie, and a two-person romantic drama, Two for a Seesaw (1959).  Anne Bancroft, then-unknown, starred in both plays; she and Gibson each won Tony awards for their work. In 1964, The Miracle Worker was adapted into an Oscar-winning film. However, Gibson was dissatisfied with Broadway and Hollywood's creative processes; he was offended by how producers sacrificed artistic integrity for financial profit. The rest of his career never achieved the success of The Miracle Worker, although Golda's Balcony, his one-woman play about Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, became an Off-Broadway hit in 2002.

Many of Gibson's plays tell the stories of women triumphing despite all odds. After reading Annie Sullivan's autobiography as a teenager, Gibson was forever fascinated by her story– a young woman tasked to teach a child what she herself had only recently learned. His script draws primarily from Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan's autobiographies, as well as Sullivan's published letters. The Miracle Worker takes its title from a quote by author Mark Twain, who was a friend of Helen Keller: "Helen is a miracle, and Miss Sullivan is the miracle-worker."