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Sylvia Plath (1955)

Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston Massachusetts to Aurelia and Otto Plath on October 27, 1932. A talented writer, her first poem was published in the Boston Sunday Herald when she was eight years old. In 1940 her father, a professor of Biology at Boston University died after a long illness, and Plath never fully recovered from this loss. Plath lived in Wellesley, and graduated from Bradford Senior High School, and received the Olive Higgins Prouty Scholarship at Smith College, which she attended from 1950-55.

While at Smith, Plath was very active in many organizations while excelling academically and being named a first group scholar each semester. She was the Press Board Correspondent for the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Springfield Daily News, and she was also editor of the Smith Review, the college literary magazine. She was also on the editorial board of the Campus Cat, a college humor magazine, as well as secretary of the honor board, a member of Alpha Phi- Kappa Psi, and Phi Beta Kappa. Additionally, Plath taught art at the People’s Institute in Northampton and served on the sophomore PUSH committee. In her sophomore year she had several poems published by Harper’s Magazine, won two Smith College Prize Awards for Poetry, and she also had several short stories and poems published in Seventeen Magazine. During the summer of 1953, Plath was named one of 20 guest editors of Mademoiselle Magazine. However, in August of that year, Plath attempted to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping pills. She spent the next six months in McLean Hospital.

During the summer of 1954, Plath received a full scholarship to study German at the Harvard Summer School, before returning to Smith that fall for her senior year. During her first two years at Smith she lived in Haven House (now Wesley-Haven House), and during her last two years moved to Lawrence House.  After graduating summa cum laude from Smith in June of 1955, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Cambridge. While she was there, she met Ted Hughes. They were married on December 7, 1956, in London. From 1957-58, Plath returned to the United States to be an instructor in English Language and Literature at Smith College, however, although she enjoyed teaching, she found no time to spend on her writing, and so she gave up teaching and settled permanently in England in 1959.

In 1960, Plath published her first book of poetry, The Colossus, and in April of that year, bore her first child, Frieda. Two years later, in 1962, her son Nicholas was born. However, Plath’s marriage was falling apart, and Hughes eventually left her for another woman. In January of 1963, she published a novel, The Bell Jar, under the pen name, Victoria Lucas. (Although published in England in 1963, it was not published in America until 1971.) A month later, on February 11, 1963 Plath committed suicide. She was 30 years old. A second book of poetry, Ariel, written in the last few months of her life, was published after her death.

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2 comments to Sylvia Plath (1955)

  • As I know Plath is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best known for her two collections The Colossus and Other Poems and Ariel. In 1982, she became the first poet to win a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for The Collected Poems. She also wrote The Bell Jar, a semi-autobiographical novel published shortly before her death

  • Richard Marsh

    Could you list which houses Plath lived in while at Smith?

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