Poet. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, the first daughter of three children, her father served in the General Court of Massachusetts and later in the United States House of Representatives. Raised in a strict puritanical Massachusetts in a Christian tradition, she would later challenge her parents' beliefs. She attended Amherst Academy, and later, South Hadley Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College). She was considered shy in the presence of strangers, and quit college in 1848 after only one year, to return to Amherst. She never married, and had only a few deep relationships with others, preferring the life of a recluse in her father's house. After college, and for the rest of her entire life, she only left Amherst four times, for quick trips to Philadelphia, Washington DC, or to Boston. During one of trips, she met Reverend Charles Wadsworth and Thomas W. Higginson, men who would greatly influence her poetry. Like Emily, Wadsworth was a solitary, romantic person, and he and Dickinson shared much in common. They would often write each other, sharing their world, and scholars commonly believe that he was her point of interest in her love poems. In 1862, she desired to publish her poems, and obtained advise from Thomas Higginson, who counseled her against publishing. As a result, only seven of her poems were ever published in her lifetime. As her family and friends began to pass away (in the 1870s and 1880s), her poetry turned more to themes of death. She went into near total seclusion after her father's death in 1874, gaining the local nickname of the "Nun of Amherst." Her health began to deteriorate in 1884, and she passed away in May 1886. After her death, it was determined that she had written a total of 1,775 poems, and they were arranged into four groups, bearing on their themes: Friends, Nature, Love, and Death. Her sister, Lavinia, arranged for her poems to be published posthumously, but the full range of her work was not published until 1955.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson