Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Well known for her poetry, Dickinson is a figure commonly cornered into an identity seemingly hyper-feminine; one of quiet subservience and meekness. This is something Adrienne Rich refutes in her essay “Vesuvius at Home,” saying “I have a notion that genius knows itself: that Dickinson chose her seclusion, knowing she was exceptional and knowing what she needed.”
In her poetry, she tackles a wide range of themes from death and mortality to love and intimacy. While having never married, Dickinson is known to have kept a close relationship with her sister-in-law, Susan Huntington Dickinson, who married her brother Austin.
While reading these letters and some of Emily’s poetry, look for themes of intimacy and compassion between the women. And how, their relationship, while being allowed to exist as even married women of the time were thought to need extra emotional support outside of their husbands, they cross and push the lines of platonic and romantic love.