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Sylvia Plath Special Collections Resources: About Sylvia Plath

Collections related to Sylvia Plath in Smith College Special Collections

Sylvia Plath

The American poet and novelist Sylvia Plath was born on 27 October 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts, to Otto and Aurelia Schober Plath. After graduating from Smith College in 1955, she attended Newnham College at Cambridge University on a Fulbright fellowship.

Plath married British poet Ted Hughes on 16 June 1956. The couple moved to Massachusetts after Plath graduated from Cambridge. Plath was an English instructor at Smith College from 1957 to 1958 while her husband taught English literature and creative writing at the University of Massachusetts at the Amherst campus before they moved to Boston to write for a year.

In 1959, Plath audited Robert Lowell's poetry writing course at Boston University where she met the poet Anne Sexton. After a ten-week stay at Yaddo, the artist's colony in Saratoga Springs, New York, the couple moved back to England in December.

Heinemann published Plath's first book, The Colossus: Poems, in London in 1960; The Bell Jar, Plath's thinly disguised autobiographical novel, was published by Heinemann three years later in 1963.

Plath died from suicide on 11 February 1963. Her Ariel poems were published posthumously by Faber and Faber in 1965, and her Collected Poems (1981) won the Pulitzer Prize in 1982.

See the Sylvia Plath collection finding aid for a timeline of her life.

Sylvia Plath at Smith College

Sylvia Plath enrolled at Smith College in 1951 and graduated in 1955. While at Smith, Plath was very active in many organizations while excelling academically and being named a first group scholar each semester. She was the Press Board Correspondent for the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Springfield Daily News, and she was also editor of the Smith Review, the college literary magazine. She was also on the editorial board of the Campus Cat, a college humor magazine, as well as secretary of the honor board, a member of Alpha Phi- Kappa Psi, and Phi Beta Kappa. Additionally, Plath taught art at the People’s Institute in Northampton and served on the sophomore PUSH committee. In her sophomore year she won two Smith College Prize Awards for Poetry.

During the summer of 1954, Plath received a full scholarship to study German at the Harvard Summer School, before returning to Smith that fall for her senior year. During her first two years at Smith she lived in Haven House (now Wesley-Haven House), and during her last two years moved to Lawrence House.  After graduating summa cum laude from Smith in June of 1955, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Cambridge.

From 1957-58, Plath returned to the United States to be an instructor in English Language and Literature at Smith College, however, although she enjoyed teaching, she found no time to spend on her writing, and so she gave up teaching and settled permanently in England in 1959. (from Smithpedia)

Material related to Sylvia Plath can be found throughout the College Archives in multiple collections, including in files for Smith houses, clubs, and college publications.