Only authenticated photo of Emily, circa 1847, taken at Mt. Holyoke Women’s Seminary. wikicommons

For a woman who led a very quiet and secluded physical life, her inner experiences were vast and colorful. But lack of documentation after her passing left a lot of her story to fill in. Was Emily Dickinson a quiet, unmarried recluse, always clad in a white dress, the myth of Amherst, or was she a witty artist ahead of her time, who loved her family, had close friendships, many interests…and sometimes wore a white dress?

And the big question: How accurate is the Apple TV+ show, Dickinson?

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts into a family that went back in the US to the 1600s and who helped to found not only the town of Amherst but also Amherst College (which still exists!) Her immediate family– Papa Edward, Mama Emily Norcross Dickinson, older brother Austin, and younger sister Lavina– were all very close and led a fairly common life for their New England social class. Papa was a lawyer and politician, and young Emily was well educated through one year of college at Mount Holyoke Women’s Seminary.

Emily, Austin, and Lavinia as children, we tell you why the girls’ hair is short. Public Domain

In this episode, we’ll introduce you to the main players in Emily’s story, get you through her childhood and education, and end when she is fully an adult and embarking on what she’s now famous for. For a woman who is often simply identified as, “a poet, a recluse who never married or saw people and never ventured from her house,” there is a lot of living that is left out of that description–two episodes worth!

All of the media recommendations will be on Part Two, however, here’s a couple of things to tide you over that will only make sense if you listen to the episode:

Here is a collection of Julia and Paul Child’s Valentines in Bon Appetite  –we promise this will make sense after you listen to the episode.

Here’s a bit about Emily’s very tiny writing desk from the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts.  That one probably makes sense to anyone, but this video? No way.


Part Two will be available next week, so you don’t have to wait long–we get it, really.