Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She was the youngest of three children, her father, Edward, was a state legislator and his father was Samuel Dickinson, founder of Amherst College. Emily Dickinson studied there, while it was still called Amherst Academy, as well as the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. However, she suffered from illnesses and depression, causing her to have several gaps in her attendance. She finally stopped attending school 1848. An official reason was never given, but it is possible she left due to depression.
Preferring a life of solitude, Dickinson would fill notebooks with her poetry and letters. A family friend, Benjamin Newton, was the first to introduce William Wordsworth to her as a teenager. Her love for the written word and his influence started her poetry writing. Her older brother married her best friend in 1855, leaving their family homestead and the care of their mother to Emily and her sister, Lavinia. Because both daughters remained unmarried they lived together in the same homestead until each of their deaths.
Beginning in the 1860’s, Dickinson rarely left home. She had been receiving treatment for an eye condition, but most believe her seclusion was brought on by a mix of depression, anxiety and agoraphobia. During that time, she produced many of her well known poems. Of the 1,800 she wrote in her lifetime, nearly two-thirds of them were written in her 20’s and 30’s. Very few of them were published; they were altered to fit an acceptable format of poetry at the time, removing her style and voice. Because of this, she decided to keep them for herself, sharing them with close friends and family. She also maintained a herbarium during that time, teaching herself about botany.
In the later part of her life, Dickinson began writing less. She also stopped keeping her writings together in book form. With her health and mental well being deteriorating, she also saw much death and sadness in her family. Her mother suffered a stroke in 1875, just a year after her father passed away. She became the primary caregiver for her mother until she died. She also developed a romantic relationship with a widowed friend of her father. She was considering marrying Otis Phillips Lord, but he passed away in 1884 before they could officially wed.
Emily Dickinson passed away on May 15, 1886. She died from a degenerative kidney disease at the age of 56. Her frail health and the stresses in her life also contributed to her death at a young age. She is buried in the town cemetery and her homestead is now a museum. It was after her death that Lavinia found all her notebooks filled with her writings. Her works were finally published starting in 1890, while a complete collection wasn’t available until 1955. Some of her more famous works include “Hope Is The Thing With Feathers”, and the mortality themed “Because I Could Not Stop For Death”. Well known for being reclusive, morbid, and strange, she has had a significant impact on the way poetry is read and written. She has become one of the best known and loved authors in American literature.