Edna St. Vincent Millay portrait (c. 1914-1915)

Full Name: Edna St. Vincent Millay

Birth Date: February 22, 1892

Death Date: October 19, 1950

Location: Millay Room, Whitehall Inn, Camden, Maine

Monument Type: Historic/Residence

Cora Lounnella Millay gave birth to Edna St. Vincent Millay in 1892. The flourishing Rockland, Maine, served as Edna’s birthplace. Henry Millay was Edna’s father, and Norma and Kathleen would join Edna as her siblings. Norma came before Edna turned two, and Kathleen arrived when Edna was four. As a young girl, Edna read widely and soon found herself creating her own literary gems. Cora Millay, who had published poems, exposed Edna to poetry; this ignited a spark in Edna. At the same time, Edna’s girlhood was filled with trials and tribulations, as her mother and father divorced. She and her sisters encountered typhoid fever, yet all three persevered.

As Edna got older, her poetry reached new heights. Some of Edna’s poems found a home in the children’s periodical called St. Nicholas. In 1907, one poem, which St. Nicholas had featured and had garnered an award, ended up being reproduced in a premier periodical: Current Literature. Ultimately, Edna gained recognition for her skills early on, and upon entering adulthood, Edna thanked St. Nicholas for supporting her work.

Camden, Maine, provided a milieu for her burgeoning talent. Edna’s final year of high school was jam-packed, as she performed in school theater productions and edited Camden High School’s newspaper. At her graduation, she read aloud one of her powerful poems. She had not yet reached the pinnacle of her career, as the 1910s were critical years for Edna’s craft. Her piece “Renascence” achieved praise, even as it did not gain the top prize in a competition during 1912. One night, in Camden’s Whitehall Inn, Edna enchanted those listening to her rendition of her signature poem, “Renascence.” For college, after a fierce battle between Vassar and rival Smith, Edna settled on Vassar. Before her time at Vassar, Edna needed to receive instruction in another school, Barnard College, to get up to speed. By the time Edna started at Poughkeepsie’s Vassar, she had been twenty-one for months. As a Vassar student, Edna garnered accolades for her poetry.

Edna would continue to rise as an influential poet, as she attained a Pulitzer Prize while she was in her early thirties. Edna would become Eugen Boissevain’s second wife. She passed away in 1950, leaving behind a tremendous legacy in the world of poetry.

Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay, ed. Allan Ross Macdougall. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1952.
Milford, Nancy. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. New York: Random House, 2001.
Millay, E. Vincent. “The Land of Romance.” Current Literature 42, no. 4 (April 1907): 456-457.

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