Emily Dickinson’s Family & Friends

Illustration of Amherst College buildings known as College Row in the 1800s

Samuel Fowler Dickinson (1775-1838) and Lucretia Gunn Dickinson (1775-1840), grandparents

Emily’s paternal grandfather, a prominent Amherst lawyer, built the brick house on Main Street that became her home and sanctuary for most of her life...
Edward Dickinson

Edward Dickinson (1803-1874), father

Edward Dickinson embraced the conservative Whig political party and embodied its ethics of responsibility, fairness, and personal restraint to a point that contemporaries found his demeanor severe and unyielding...
Emily Norcross Dickinson

Emily Norcross Dickinson (1804-1882), mother

The eldest daughter of nine children, Emily Norcross had an extraordinary education for a young woman in the early nineteenth century...
William Austin Dickinson

William Austin Dickinson (1829-1895), brother

The world of the close-knit Dickinson family revolved around Austin, the oldest of the three Dickinson children. Emily Dickinson was especially close to her brother in their youth...
Lavinia Dickinson holding a cat

Lavinia Norcross Dickinson (1833-1899), sister

One of the most significant people in Emily Dickinson’s life was her sister Lavinia, two years younger, and by Emily’s account, the more practical of the two. “I don’t see much of Vinnie – she’s mostly dusting stairs!” (L176)...
Susan Dickinson

Susan Huntington Gilbert Dickinson (1830-1913), sister-in-law

Married to the poet’s brother Austin, Susan lived at The Evergreens, where she raised her children Ned, Martha, and Thomas Gilbert (“Gib”). She suffered the tragic loss of her son Gib in 1883...
Ned Dickinson

Edward (Ned) Dickinson (1861-1898), nephew

Austin and Susan Dickinson's eldest child was called Ned. Although Emily Dickinson admitted her “fear of joggling Him!” (L232), she developed a close and gleeful relationship with her nephew...
Martha Dickinson

Martha Dickinson (Mattie) Bianchi (1866-1943), niece

The last surviving member of the Dickinson line, Martha (“Mattie”) was the daughter of Austin and Susan Dickinson. A poet and novelist herself, Mattie inherited Emily’s manuscripts and revived interest in her aunt’s poetry...
Thomas Gilbert (Gib) Dickinson

Thomas Gilbert (Gib) Dickinson (1875-1883), nephew

Emily’s nephew Gib was born in 1875 and doted on by the whole family. “Gib is all right and as naughty as ever,” wrote his brother, Ned, in a letter to their mother. Tragically, Gib contracted typhoid fever and died in the fall of 1883, only 8 years old...
Etching of Concord Massachusetts in the 1840s

Frances (1847-1896) and Louisa (1842-1919) Norcross, cousins

Fanny and Loo, as Emily affectionately called her cousins, were close friends to the poet. When the cousins were orphaned in 1863, Dickinson offered her home as a refuge...

Mary Lyon

Mary Lyon (1797-1849), teacher

A pioneering educator of women, Mary founded Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in 1837, which Emily Dickinson attended from 1847-48. In 1893, the seminary became Mount Holyoke College, where Lyon’s legacy is celebrated yearly at commencement.
title page of Ralph Waldo Emerson's book of poems

Benjamin Franklin Newton (1821-1853), friend

The poet wrote of her friend, the young law student, “Mr. Newton became to me a gentle, yet grave Preceptor, teaching me what to read, what authors to admire, what was most grand or beautiful in nature, and that sublimer lesson, a faith in things unseen.”
Abby Wood Bliss portrait

Abby Wood Bliss (1830-1915), friend

Abby Maria Wood Bliss was Dickinson’s “particular friend” (L8) and schoolmate at Amherst Academy, and one of the close group of girlhood friends that the poet called “our circle of five.”
Abiah Root

Abiah Root (1830-1915), friend

One of Dickinson’s group of five close girlhood friends, Abiah was the friend whom the poet most trusted to hear her own spiritual wrestling.
Elizabeth Holland

Elizabeth Holland (1823-1896), friend

Dickinson wrote over 90 letters to Holland, confiding in her older friend about deeply personal issues, as well as lighter topics, including their shared love of plants.
Samuel Bowles

Samuel Bowles (1826-1878), friend

Editor-in-chief of the influential newspaper the Springfield Republican, Bowles was a primary recipient of Dickinson’s poems.
Helen Hunt Jackson

Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), friend

A popular American poet, novelist, short story writer, and essayist, Jackson was—like Dickinson—a daughter of Amherst.
Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Thomas Wentworth Higginson (1823-1911), correspondent

A lifelong radical, outspoken abolitionist, and advocate of women’s rights, Higginson was the co-editor of the first two collections of Emily Dickinson’s poems.
Mabel Loomis Todd

Mabel Loomis Todd (1856-1932), correspondent

Instrumental in publishing Emily’s poetry, Todd nonetheless had a complicated relationship with the Dickinson family.
an illustration of a Newfoundland dog

Carlo (1849-1866), dog

A brown Newfoundland, Carlo accompanied the poet on walks in the woods and fields of Amherst.