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Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine, in 1892. When Edna was seven years old, her mother Cora asked Edna's father to leave. Cora was a nurse and always encouraged her daughters to pursue music and literature.

Cora encouraged Edna to enter a poetry contest. In doing this, Edna won a scholarship to Vassar College after her poem "Renascence" won fourth place. She graduated from Vassar College in 1917, which is the same year Renascence and Other Poems was published.

At one time, Edna was romantically involved with Wynne Matthison, a British actress. The two wrote passionate letters to each other. In one letter, Edna wrote, "You wrote me a beautiful letter,--I wonder if you meant it to be as beautiful as it was.--I think you did, for somehow I know that your feeling for me, however slight it is, is of the nature of love… When you tell me to come, I will come, by the next train, just as I am. This is not meekness, be assured; I do not come naturally be meekness; know that it is a proud surrender to you."

Edna had many romantic relationships with women before her marriage to Eugen Boissevain in 1923. It is unknown if she continued to have relationships with women during her marriage. It is also unknown which of her poems were written about women and which were written about men. They were married all the way until Eugen's death in 1949.

Max Eastman tells of an interesting story about Edna in Great Companions. However, it cannot be certain whether it is true: While at a cocktail party, Edna was discussing her headaches with a psychologist. He said, "I wonder if it has ever occurred to you that you might perhaps, although you are hardly conscious of it, have an occasional impulse toward a person of your own sex."

Her reply was, "Oh, you mean I'm homosexual! Of course, I am, and heterosexual too, but what's that got to do with my headache?"

Edna wrote many poems and even plays. In 1920, Edna published a collection of poems called A Few Figs from Thistles, in which she stated that women have a right to sexual pleasure and have no obligation to fidelity. In 1922, she won the Pulitzer Prize for her play The Harp Weaver.

Edna wrote a verse play titled The Lamp and the Bell while at Vassar. It was a story of two stepsisters (whose names are Bianca and Beatrice) separated by a male suitor. Edna modeled Bianca's character after Charlotte Babcock, a woman who she was infatuated with. The play speaks of lesbian love. When speaking of the two stepsisters, one character says, "I vow I never knew a pair of lovers/ More constant than these two."

Other writings include Second April (1921), The King's Henchman (1927), Fatal Interview (1931), Collected Sonnets (1941), Collected Lyrics (1943), Mine the Harvest (1954), and Collected Poems (1956). The Murder of Lidice (1942) was a ballad written for radio.

Edna has also used the penname Nancy Boyd. She died in 1950, a year after Eugen, of heart failure.

"Parrots, tortoises and redwoods
Live a longer life than men do,
Men a longer life than dogs do,
Dogs a longer life than love does."--Edna St. Vincent Millay
(from Pretty Love I Must Outlive You)

From Renascence:
She is neither pink nor pale,
And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
And her mouth on a valentine.
She has more hair than she needs;
In the sun 'tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of colored beads,
Or steps leading into the sea.
She loves me all that she can,
And her ways to my ways resign;
But she was not made for any man,
And she never will be all mine.

From Second April:
Into the golden vessel of great song
Let us pour all our passion; breast to breast
Let other lovers lie, in love and rest;
Not we,--articulate, so, but with the tongue
Of all the world: the churning blood, the long
shuddering quiet, the desperate hot palms pressed
Sharply together upon the escaping guest,
The common soul, unguarded, and grown strong.
Longing alone is singer to the lute;
Let still on nettles in the open sigh
The minstrel, that in slumber is as mute
As any man, and love be far and high,
That else forsakes the topmost branch, a fruit
Found on the ground by every passer-by.

Sappho (600 BC)
Katherine Fowler (1631-1664)
Aphra Behn (1640?-1689)
Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1698)
Anna Seward (1747-1809)
Wu Tsao (1800)
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Katherine Bradley (1848-1915) and Edith Cooper (1862-1913)
Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929)
Charlotte Mew (1869-1929)
Amy Lowell (1874-1925)
Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
Renée Vivien (1877-1909)
Angelina Weld Grimké (1880)
Elsa Gidlow (1898-1986)

The Fight for Equality
Famous Les/Bi/Gay People throughout History
Lesbian Poetry
Same-Sex Marriage
Homophobia and Hate Crimes
Links for Parents Trying to Deal with Their Teen's Homosexuality
Links for Teens Trying to Deal with Their Own Homosexuality
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