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Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Such major figures as Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Margaret Fuller glorified same-sex friendship, while Walt Whitman filled his poetry with robust imagery celebrating male "ashesiveness". Louisa May Alcott extolled the virtues of intimate same-sex friendship in her 1870 novel An Old-Fashioned Girl, in which she describes the lives of two women artists.
Recent scholars such as Patterson, Lillian Faderman, and Woodul have argued that Dickinson's "seemingly curious" life makes sense if seen from a lesbian perspective that includes the many women who were close to her, such as Sue Gilbert and Kate Scott Turner. The poet Emily Dickinson fell in love with her friend Sue Gilbert, who later married Dickinson's brother. In 1852 Dickinson wrote to Gilbert: “Susie, will you indeed come home next Saturday, and be my own again, and kiss me as you used to? . . . I hope for you so much, and feel so eager for you, feel that I cannot wait, feel that now I must have you—that the expectation once more to see your face again, makes me feel hot and feverish, and my heart beats so fast.”
Margaret Fuller's 1842 translation fo the correspondence between Karoline von Günderrode and Bettina von Arnim, two German writers who had loved each other at the beginning of the century, was the inspiration for many of the letters and poems written by Emily Dickinson to her friend Sue Gilbert. After Gilbert's marriage to Austin (Dickinson's brother), Emily fell in love with Sue's school friend, Kate Scott. Their romance lasted for a number of years, culminating in the summer of 1860, when they spent a night together. Emily commemorated this event in one of her poems (1862) to Kate, describing it as a symbolic marriage.
Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although part of a prominent family with strong ties to its community, Dickinson lived much of her life in reclusive isolation. After studying at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, she briefly attended the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family's house in Amherst. Considered an eccentric by locals, she developed a noted penchant for white clothing and became known for her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, to even leave her bedroom. Dickinson never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence. Dickinson was a recluse for the later years of her life.
While Dickinson was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime. The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Dickinson's poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends.
Although Dickinson's acquaintances were most likely aware of her writing, it was not until after her death in 1886—when Lavinia, Dickinson's younger sister, discovered her cache of poems—that the breadth of her work became apparent to the public. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1890 by personal acquaintances Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Mabel Loomis Todd, though both heavily edited the content. A complete, and mostly unaltered, collection of her poetry became available for the first time when scholar Thomas H. Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson in 1955.
In September 2012, the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections unveiled this daguerreotype, proposing it to be Dickinson and her friend Kate Scott Turner (ca. 1859); it has not been authenticated.
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