Emily Dickinson was a reclusive woman who wrote poetry for the world.

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her father, Edward Dickinson, was a successful Whig lawyer who served one term in Congress. Her mother, Emily Norcross, was an introverted homemaker. Both were distant parents. Dickinson had a brother, William Austin, and a sister, Lavinia, with whom she was very close.

Dickinson lived in fearful awe of her father. When she was very young he tried to teach her about clocks. She didn't understand, but she was afraid to tell him so. She was also afraid to ask anyone else to explain the mysterious movements of clock hands, because her father might find out. As a result, Dickinson was fifteen years old before she learned to tell time.

The Dickinson children were allowed to read the Bible, but no other books. Austin secretly smuggled in a copy of Longfellow's "Kavanagh," which he hid under the pianoforte cover, to read with his sisters. Austin was the one to whom Dickinson turned, not her distant mother, when she needed comfort. She later wrote, "I never had a mother. I suppose a mother is one to whom you hurry when you are troubled."

Dickinson was grateful to have a sister, and evidently she wished she had more. She wrote, "Sisters are brittle things. God was penurious with me, which makes me shrewd with Him. One is a dainty sum! One bird, one cage, one flight; one song in those far woods, as yet suspected by faith only!"

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