Today we want to highlight the life of a historical poet, feminist and LGBT advocate —Edna St. Vincent Millay. Millay is most well known for her poetry, winning the Pulitzer Prize for her outstanding work. Her most famous poems are Renascence and A Few Figs From Thistles, artistic endeavors that delve into women’s sexuality and sensuality.
Millay started writing poetry at a very young age and published her first poems when she was 15 years old. She also realized she was a bisexual early on in her life and when she attended Vassar College, a women’s only school at the time, she began having sexual relationships with other women on campus. One of her poems, The Lamp and the Bell, is about female love.
After college she moved to New York City and found a good fit for herself in Greenwich Village, where she openly dated both women and men. During her time there, she worked with theater group, Provincetown Players, which was famously started by Eugene O’Neill. And she went on to found the Cherry Lane Theater for innovative theater. She also dated well-known silent film actress, Edith Wynne Matthison.
In addition to her poetic pursuits, we know that she was an activist, who was very vocal about politics and women’s rights. And in true feminist fashion, when she married, the arrangement was very forward thinking and quite ahead of its time.
Her husband, Eugen Jan Boissevain, left his career behind so he could focus on supporting Millay’s work and the household duties. And the couple had an open relationship, which allowed each of them to have numerous affairs during their twenty-six year marriage.
After her husband died, Millay lived alone until her death a year later, at the young age of 58.