Emily Dickinson – A Biography

 By: Katie Jenkins, Junior

Born December 10, in 1830, Emily Dickinson was the middle child and oldest daughter of Lavinia Norcross Dickinson and Edward Dickinson.  She is known to many as the greatest American poet, with many of her poems well known to all.  

  She was born in the house known as “The Homestead” but was raised predominantly at a house on what is now North Pleasant Street in Amherst.  Her family bought this house after Dickinson’s grandparents moved to Ohio after running into some financial troubles.  The Dickinson family remained as tenants in the house after it was sold out of the family, making the decision to move in 1840.  After spending the majority of her childhood in the house on North Pleasant Street, the family purchased the Homestead back and returned there in 1855.  

  Dickinson attended the Amherst district Academy for a period of time before attending the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary School in 1947.  Her time at Mount Holyoke was the longest time she spent away from home.

  Dickinson’s creativity expanded during the Civil War.  The period of 1855-1865 is known as her “Writing Years.”  This time was also marked by the family’s return to their ancestral home and the marriage of her older brother, Austin Dickinson, to her friend Susan Gilbert, with whom she shared many of her poems. 

  Her poetry focused on such themes as the wonders of nature, the identity of the self, death and immortality, and love.     

  Dickinson is often known for her reclusiveness, rarely even leaving her home towards the end of her life.  This pattern of reclusivity became notable in 1865, when she returned home from Boston, after receiving treatment for an eye condition called iritis.  This trip to Boston was the last time she left her home until her death in May of 1886, at age 55.

    Over the course of her life, Dickinson wrote 1800 poems, which were found after her death by her sister Lavinia, and published by Lavinia, Susan, and some close friends of the family.  

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