Thank You, Emily Dickinson

This past weekend, I got to visit the Emily Dickinson museum, which is basically just the house she was born and died in Amherst, MA. I’ve always been a fan of Emily, but walking through her house and hearing more of the personal details of her life made me appreciate her more. Perhaps what struck me the most was her little, white house dress that was on display. It was a perfectly tailored white button-down frock, the kind of thing that women wore to sleep in or to do chores around the house. But what was interesting about it was that Emily wore it out in public, which was grounds for ridicule back in the late 1800s. While other women were still wearing the corsets and petticoats of the Victorian era, Emily was rebelling. And that extended to her lifestyle. She refused to be confined to customs, conventions, or corsets. I’ve always thought of her as a sad reclusive woman. But standing in her bright bedroom, looking at her writing table, she was no longer a misanthrope to me, she was more of a trailblazing feminist.

“It must have been lonely for her to go against everything conventional,” I said to the tour guide. At that moment her bedroom light flickered and all of the power in her house went out. Um, that was just a little bit scary.

Don’t worry, the power went back on a few minutes later. But I was left with this feeling that she heard me. I guess what I was trying to say was, “Thank you for being so unconventional.” It’s still hard to be an unconventional woman, but it’s easier because of Emily Dickinson and other women like her.

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.