Emily Dickinson grew up in a prominent and prosperous household in Amherst, Massachusetts. Along with her younger sister Vinnie and older brother Austin, she experienced a quiet and reserved family life headed by her father Edward Dickinson. In a letter to Austin at law school, she once described the atmosphere in her father's house as "pretty much all sobriety." Her mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson, was not as powerful a presence in her life; she seems not to have been as emotionally accessible as Dickinson would have liked. Her daughter is said to have characterized her as not the sort of mother "to whom you hurry when you are troubled." Both parents raised Dickinson to be a cultured Christian woman who would one day be responsible for a family of her own. Her father attempted to protect her from reading books that might "joggle" her mind, particularly her religious faith, but Dickinson's individualistic instincts and irreverent sensibilities created conflicts that did not allow her to fall into step with the conventional piety, domesticity, and social duty prescribed by her father and the orthodox Congregationalism of Amherst.
The Dickinsons were well known in Massachusetts. Her father was a lawyer and served as the treasurer of Amherst College (a position Austin eventually took up as well), and her grandfather was one of the college's founders. Although
Bibliography: • Emily Dickinson - Marnie Pomeroy ISBN 1-871551-68-4 • The Life of Emily Dickinson by Richard B Sewell (1974) • The Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by R.W.Franklin (1998)