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A compendium of queer people in the 19th and 20th centuries // Drawn and researched by Michele Rosenthal

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay 1892to –1950

American lyrical poet and playwright. She and her two sisters were raised by her mother after her father was asked to leave the family, and they moved from town to town with very little money, but with a trunk full of classic literature. Millay, who went by the name “Vincent” and was already dating women at school, began submitting her poetry to publications and competitions. Her poem “Renascence” was so well received, it earned her a scholarship to attend Vassar. While there, she continued her relationships with women, and would include lesbian undertones in the play The Lamp and the Bell which she wrote for the college. After graduating, she moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village, where she was “very, very poor and very, very merry.” Joining the Bohemian art set, she began dating men as well as women, openly identifying as bisexual, and turning down a number of marriage proposals. Her poetry collection A Few Figs from Thistles received attention partially for its frankness around female sexual appetite. At 31, she married Eugen Boissevain, who shared her interest in feminism, and didn’t mind an open relationship. They moved to a blueberry farm upstate called Steepletop, where Millay began gardening, while Boissevain managed and supported his wife’s career. in 1923 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and in 1943 was awarded the Frost Medal for her lifetime of contributions. She continued to write and make public appearances throughout her life, and died only a year after her husband.

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