Women's Rights



Emily Dickinson - Belle of Amherst

Emily Dickinson is now seen - with the 20/20 vision of history - as a powerful and persistent figure in American literature. Considered today to be an innovative, pre-modernist poet, she was regarded as eccentric and secluded in her time.
Born in Amherst, Mass. - to a successful family with strong community ties - Emily was oriented toward school (Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary) in her youth and friendship conducted mostly by correspondence in her adult life.
In her lifetime, fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems saw publication. Even those few published works were often significantly altered by publishers to conform to prevailing poetic rules of the times.
A gracious young lady - she was the 2nd of 3 children - she studied English and Classical Literature, Latin, Botany, Geology, History, "Mental Philosophy" and Mathematics. Her brush with religion came and went, with her eventually declaring:  "Some keep the Sabbath going to church - I keep it, staying at home."
Troubled from a young age by the " deepening menace" of the hereafter, she turned increasingly inward after suffering the loss of a series of friends, relatives and mentors in her writing, culminating in the loss of her mother.
Other than a trip to Philadelphia and Washington, DC, she never strayed far from Amherst. Withdrawing more and more from the world, she filled 40 notebooks - with nearly 800 poems - between 1858 and 1865. These works - her lasting legacy - were discovered only after her passing.
The loss of her father - in 1874 - set her even further into he own world. She lost her mother (1882) - and two other friends passed away (in 1882 and 1884) - by which time she was speaking to visitors only from behind a closed door.
She fainted in 1885 and was confined to bed for several months. Following a final burst of letters the following spring, she passed away (15/5/1886) at 55.
Immortalized as "The Belle of Amherst" (actress Julie Harris won a Tony for her portrayal of Dickinson in Broadway production of the play, which was so successful that she starred in the film version and in many other performances), she is now considered a singular female major American poet of her era and beyond - placed alongside Whitman, Frost, T. S. Eliot and Hart Crane. Her poetry is now taught in American literature and poetry classes - from middle school through university. There are numerous anthologies of her works, and her verse has lived on to inspire such illustrious composers as Aaron Copland and Michael Tilson Thomas. The Emily Dickinson Journal is published by an International Society -  bearing her name - 
to examine her work.
Honours to Emily Dickinson include : Schools in her name - An 8 cent U.S. stamp/2nd in the American Poet Series - A collection of over 7,000 items At Amherst Jones Library - Archives and Special Collections at Amherst College - The publication of her "Herbarium" by the Harvard University Press (2006)  and the establishment of The Emily Dicknson Museum by Amherst College (2003)



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