Edna St. Vincent Millay

1892 –

Poet and playwright Edna St. Vincent Millay was born in Rockland, Maine, on February 22, 1892. In 1912, Millay entered her poem “Renascence” to The Lyric Year’s poetry contest, where she won fourth place and publication in the anthology. This brought her immediate acclaim and a scholarship to Vassar College, where she continued to write poetry and became involved in the theater. In 1917, the year of her graduation, Millay published her first book, Renascence and Other Poems (Harper, 1917). At the request of Vassar’s drama department, she also wrote her first verse play, The Lamp and the Bell (1921), a work about love between women.

After graduating from Vassar, Millay moved to New York City’s Greenwich Village, where she lived with her sister, Norma, in a nine-foot-wide attic. Millay published poems in Vanity Fair, the Forum, and others while writing short stories and satire under the pen name Nancy Boyd. She and Norma acted with the Provincetown Players in the group’s early days, befriending writers such as poet Witter Bynner, critic Edmund Wilson, playwright and actress Susan Glaspell, and journalist Floyd Dell. Millay published A Few Figs from Thistles (Harper & Brothers, 1920), a volume of poetry which drew much attention for its controversial descriptions of female sexuality and feminism. In 1923, Millay was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for The Ballad of the Harp-Weaver (Flying Cloud Press, 1922). In addition to publishing three plays in verse, Millay also wrote the libretto of one of the few American grand operas, The King’s Henchman (Harper & Brothers, 1927).

Millay married Eugen Boissevain in 1923, and the two were together for twenty-six years. Boissevain gave up his own pursuits to manage Millay’s literary career, setting up the readings and public appearances for which Millay grew famous. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay died at the age of fifty-eight on October 18, 1950, in Austerlitz, New York.