Sylvia Plath Chronology   Part I, 1932-1952

1932 1935 1936 1940 1942 1946
1947 1948 1949 1950 1951 1952
Sources Links
Part II, 1953-1963
Available Spring, 2000
Sylvia Plath @ CBA

When Sylvia Plath (1932-1963) was eight she had a poem published in the Boston Herald newspaper. It was the start of a very precocious literary career. She graduated high school and received a scholarship to the exclusive and expensive Smith College. After college she won a Fullbright scholarship to study at Cambridge, England.

Plath is identified with the "confessional" school of American poetry and her work (for example, Ariel, 1965) is intensely introspective and feminine. Her novel The Bell Jar which describes a teenage girl's nervous breakdown (Plath had one in 1953) is the female companion to J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.

One commentator has written that to read Plath is "to read the story of the symptom named perfect." (Tamise van Pelt). Unable to negotiate a truce between the world and her sensitivities, Plath committed suicide in 1963. She left behind two children and an estranged husband, British poet, Ted Hughes.

Plath's Collected Poems published in 1981 won a Pulitzer Prize. Her Journals were published in 1982. These publications and numerous academic and biographical studies have helped maintain an on-going fascination with Plath's short and tragic life and work.

Interest in Plath continues to grow and may crest shortly. Ted Hughes, who became England's poet laureate in 1984, published Birthday Poems shortly before his death in 1998 . Long silent on the details of his relationship with Plath, the poems in the new book are mostly a meditation on that subject. Film producer Alison Owen is reportedly making Ted & Sylvia starring Gwynneth Paltrow as the star-crossed Sylvia.

Precocious and very highly strung (the two characteristics commonly travel together), Plath probed her female soul within the context she found herself in: the United States in the middle of the 20th century. Confused and critical of the differing standards for men and women in the arts and in society, Plath's introspective and perilous battle is a lesson for today as we start across this so-called bridge to the 21st century. Plath fell into the gap before the bridge was built. She is an early warning of our age's great disruption: the fear of the not forever.

At the age of seven, Sylvia Plath wrote a poem for her mother:

When mother goes away from me
I miss her as much, as much can be.
And when I go away from mother
She misses me, and so does brother.

Sylvia Plath Chronology

Part I

1932 January 4, 1932  Sylvia Plath's parents, Otto Emil Plath and Aurelia Schober get married in Nevada.

October 27, 1932  Sylvia Plath is born in the Robinson Memorial Hospital in Jamaica Plain (near Boston) Massachusetts. She is the Plath's first child.

1935 April 17, 1935  Warren Plath, Sylvia's brother, is born.

1936 October, 1936  Plath Family moves from Jamaica Plain to Johnson Avenue in Winthrop, Massachusetts.


October 12, 1940  Otto Plath's leg is amputated.

November 5, 1940  Otto Plath dies from an embolism in the lung.

1942 October 26, 1940  Aurelia, Sylvia and Warren Plath move to 26 Elmwood Road in Wellesley from Winthrop. Sylvia attends sixth grade at Marshall Livingston Grammar School, part of the public school system in Wellesley.

1946 September, 1946  Sylvia enters Gamaliel Bradford High School in Wellesley.

Gamaliel Bradford (1863-1932) was an American biographer born in Boston. He wrote numerous biographical books including Lee The American (1912), Portraits of Women (1916) and Damaged Souls (1923). The school is now called Wellesley High School but the student newspaper is still called The Bradford.

1947 September, 1947  As a sophomore in high school, Sylvia begins a three year course of study in literature with english teacher Wilbury Crockett. For sophomores, Crockett's focus is on American literature.

1948 September, 1948  Sylvia begins her junior year in high school. Crockett's literary course focuses on English literature.

1949 September, 1949  Sylvia begins her senior year in high school. Crockett's literature class focuses on world literature. During her senior year Sylvia is a co-editor of the student newspaper, The Bradford in which she publishes poems and other articles. She is also a member of the staff of the The Wellesleyan, Bradford's yearbook. Sylvia plays the part of Lady Agatha in the senior class production of The Admirable Crichton.

J. M. Barrie's turn of the century play is a tale of shipwrecked aristocracy. Stranded on an island, the family of the Earl of Loam undergoes a social transformation which is at the end undermined when the "castaways" are rescued. Lady Agatha is one of the Earl's daughters who initially has a great deal of difficulty adjusting to island life.


High School Portrait
June, 1950  Sylvia graduates from Bradford Senior High School.

July, 1950   Sylvia, with her brother, works at Lookout Farm in Dover, MA.    (A section of Plath's published journal is called "Lookout Farm.")

Summer, 1950   Sylvia's story "And Summer Will Not Come Again" is published in the August issue of Seventeen Magazine.

August 3, 1950   Eddie Cohen, a college student from Chicago sends Sylvia a letter after reading her story in Seventeen Magazine. This is the beginning of a relationship that lasts until 1954.

August 6, 1950   Sylvia sends her reply letter to Eddie Cohen.

August, 1950   Sylvia gets an unexpected kiss from Ilo, a worker at Lookout Farm.

From Sylvia Plath's Journals [August, 1950]

Smiling he was between me and the door. A motion. His hand closed around my arm. And suddenly his mouth was on mine hard, vehement, his tongue darting between my lips, his arms like iron around me. "Ilo, Ilo,!" I don't know whether I screamed or whispered, struggling to break free, my hands striking wildly, futilely against his great strength. At last he let me go, and stood back. I held my hand against my mouth, warm and bruised from his kiss. He looked at me quizzically with something like surprised amusement as he saw that I was crying, frightened. No one ever kissed me that way before, and I stood there, flooded with longing, electric, shivering.

September, 1950   Sylvia enters Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts as a freshman. She lives in Haven House. Academic classes include English, Art, Botany, History and French. Ann Davidow is her friend. During her first year at Smith her story "Dens of Lions" won third prize in a competition sponsored by Seventeen Magazine.

Founded in 1871 by Sophia Smith, Smith College in the 1950s was a relatively exclusive all-women college in Northampton, Massachusetts.

December, 1950   Dick Norton invites Syliva to a weekend dance at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Their romance begins. (Dick Norton is Buddy Willard in The Bell Jar)

1951 March, 1951   Eddie Cohen, impulsively and without warning drives from Chicago to Northampton to see Sylvia who is surprised but disconcerted.

June, 1951   Sylvia (with college friend Marcia Brown) gets a summer job as a "mother's helper" with the Mayo family of Swampscott, Massachusetts. (A section of Plath's published journals is called "Swampscott.")

From Sylvia Plath's Journals [July, 1951]

And yet does it not all come again to the fact that it is a man's world? For if a man chooses to be promiscuous, he may still esthetically turn up his nose at promiscuity. He may still demand a woman to be faithful to him, to save him from his own lust. But women have lust, too. Why should they be relegated to the position of custodian of emotions, watcher of the infants, feeder of soul, body and pride of man? Being born a woman is my awful tragedy. From the moment I was conceived I was doomed to sprout breasts and ovaries rather than penis and scrotum; to have my whole circle of action, thought and feeling rigidly circumscribed by my inescapable femininity. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, barroom regulars-- to be a part of the scene, anonymous, listening, recording-- all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yes, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night.

July 1951   Sylvia's boyfriend is Dick Norton who is living on Cape Cod for the summer.

September 1, 1951   Sylvia writes "Sonnet: To Spring?"

Sonnet: To Spring?

You deceive us with the crinkled green
of juvenile stars, and you beguile us with
a bland vanilla moon of maple cream:
Again you tame us with your April myth.
Last year you tricked us by the childish jingle
of your tinsel rains; again you try,
and find us credulous once more. A single
diabolic shower, and we cry
to see the honeyflavored morning tilt
clear light across the watergilded lawn.
Although another of our years is spilt
on avaricious earth, you lure us on:
Again we are deluded and infer
that somehow we are younger than we were.

September, 1951   Sylvia begins her sophomore year (2nd) at Smith College; Marcia Brown is her roommate. During this year Sylvia is appointed to the editorial board of the Smith Review.

October, 1951   Sylvia attends a party at the home of her college friend Maureen Buckley (sister of political pundit William F.) in Sharon, Connecticut.

From Sylvia Plath's Journals [September, 1951]

Looking at myself, in the past years, I have come to the conclusion that I must have a passionate sexual relationship with someone-- or combat the great sex urge in me by chastic means. I chose the former answer. I also admitted that I am obligated in a way to my family and to society (damn society anyway) to follow certain absurd and traditional customs-- for my own security, they tell me. I must therefore confine the major part of my life to one human being of the opposite sex....That is a necessity because:
(1) I choose the physical relationship of intercourse as an animal and releasing part of life.
(2) I cannot gratify myself promiscuously and retain the respect and support of society (which is my pet devil)-- and because I am a woman: ergo: one root of envy for male freedom.
(3) Still being a woman, I must be clever and obtain as full a measure of security for those approaching ineligible and aging years wherein I will not have the chance to capture a new mate-- in all probability. So, resolved: I shall proceed to obtain a mate through the customary procedure: namely, marriage.

November 6-7, 1951   Sylvia takes final exams in English and Government.

November, 1951   Sylvia's story "As a Baby-Sitter Sees It" is published with three of her drawings in the Christian Science Monitor.

December, 1951   Writes and submits to Mademoiselle magazine the short story "Sunday at the Mintons."

1952 April, 1952   Sylvia attends a variety of lectures and events including a poetry reading by Robert Frost and a speech by Senator Joseph McCarthy (she reportedly "hisses" at McCarthy's speech.)

May, 1952   Sylvia completes her second year of college.

From Sylvia Plath's Journals [May, 1952]

Now there comes the physical part-- and therein lies the problem. Victimized by sex is the human race. Animals, the fortunate lower beasts, go into heat. Then they are through with the thing, while we poor lustful humans, caged by mores, chained by circumstance, writhe and agonize with the appalling and demanding fire licking always at our loins. [...] Once there is the first kiss, then the cycle becomes inevitable. Training, conditioning make a hunger burn in breasts and secrete fluid in vagina, driving blindly for destruction. What is it but destruction? Some mystic desire to beat to sensual annihilation-- so snuff out one's identity on the identity of the other-- a mingling and mangling of identities? A death of one? Or both? A devouring and subordination? No, no. A polarization rather-- a balance of two integrities, charging, electrically, one with the other, yet with centers of coolness, like stars. [...] But fusion is an undesirable impossibility-- and quite nondurable. So there will be no illusion of that.

June, 1952   Sylvia gets a waitressing job at the Belmont Hotel on Cape Cod. She learns that Mademoiselle Magazine has accepted her story, "Sunday at the Mintons" which is to be published in the August 1952 issue. July, 1952   In early July, suffering from sinusitis, Sylvia quits her job at the Belmont Hotel. With her friend Phil McCurdy she drives back to Wellesley.

August, 1952   Sylvia takes a job as a mother's helper with the Cantor family in Chatham, Massachusetts (Cape Cod).

From Sylvia Plath's Journals [August 8, 1952]

Friday, 9:45pm...In bed, bathed, and the good rain coming down again-- liquidly slopping down the shingled roof outside my window. [...] A year ago it came down on my porch and the lawn and the flat gray sea beyond at the Mayos-- closing me in the great house in the day, talking to me alone in my room in the evening as I sat alone in bed writing, surveying my kingdom from my throne: the lone streetlight on the corner, hanging solitary in a nimbus of light, and beyond it the gray indistinguishable fog and the rain sound blending with the wash of the sea. It shut me in a rock cave with Dick on Marblehead Beach, drenching, soaking, and we threw rocks at a rusted tin can until it stopped coming down viciously and churning the sea to a flayed whiteness.

Two years ago August rain fell on me and Ilo, walking side by side, wordless, toward the barn. And it was raining when I came out from the loft, crying, my mouth bruised where he had kissed me. [...] Three years ago, the hot sticky August rain fell big and wet as I sat listlessly on my porch at home, crying over the way summer would not come again-- never the same. The first story in print came from that "never again" refrain beat out by the rain. August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.

August 9, 1952   Meets and visits with the bohemian writer Val Gendron.

From Sylvia Plath's Journals [August 19, 1952]

Val said: visualize, emotionalize afterwards. Beginning writers work from the sense impressions, forget cold realistic organization. First get the cold objective plot scene set. Rigid. Then write the damn thing after lying on the couch and visualizing, whipping it to white heat, to life again, the life of the art, the form, no longer formless, without frame of reference.

September, 1952   Sylvia begins her junior year (3rd) at Smith College. She is living in Lawrence House. Academic courses include Honors English, Physics, Medieval Literature and a creative writing seminar with Robert Gorham.

October, 1952   Sylvia wins 2nd prize for the story "Initiation" she had sent to Seventeen Magazine. The award includes $200 cash and publication of the story in the January 1953 issue of the magazine.

November, 1952   Sylvia's boyfriend Dick Norton goes to Lake Saranac, 80 miles north of Albany in New York State, for treatment of tuberculosis.

November 4, 1952 Sylvia, a staunch liberal-thinking young citizen is despondent about Eisenhower's victory over Stevenson in the presidential elections.

November 27, 1952   Meets Myron Lotz, a Yale premed student.

[Lotz was a baseball player. Sources conflict but Sylvia thought he played baseball in the Detroit Tigers organization. The published journals include a note explaining that Lotz played minor league baseball. Anne Stevenson in her Plath biography Bitter Fame includes a footnote suggesting Lotz only played semi-professional baseball.

December, 1952   Sylvia breaks her leg skiing while visiting Dick Norton in Lake Saranac, New York.

from a Letter by Sylvia Plath to her mother [January 9, 1953]

All in all, my leg has made me realize what a fool I was to think I had insurmountable troubles. It is a sort of concrete symbol of limitations that are primarily mental, or were. And now that I see how foolish I was in succumbing to what I thought were mental obstacles, I am determined to be as cheerful and constructive about my mental difficulties as I am going to be about this physical one.

Sylvia, Aurelia, and Warren
c. 1950

Sources for the Chronology

  • Aird, Eileen. Sylvia Plath: Her Life and Work. 1973

  • Plath, Sylvia. The Journals of Sylvia Plath. Edited by Ted Hughes and Frances McCullough. 1982.

  • Stevenson, Anne. Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath. 1989.

Plath Links

Plath @ CBA

Sylvia Plath was drafted by the Vestal Virgins in 1996 and assigned to the pitching squad. She's been relatively successful on the mound for the Virgins.

Sylvia Plath
Official Cosmic Record
1996 Virgins 3.17 179 63 102 143 12 12
1997 Virgins 3.70 73 30 38 55 3 3
1998 Virgins 3.30 188 69 72 118 9 16
Total 3 Seasons   3.31 440 162 212 316 24 31

Plath is currently on the pitching squad of the 1999 Vestal Virgins.

Click Here for Sylvia Plath's 1996 Cosmic Player Plate.

Sylvia Plath's mother, Aurelia Plath, pitches for the 1999 Motherland Mothers in the Cosmic Underleague.

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Sylvia Plath Chronology, Part 1 (1932-1952)
Published: May 17, 1999
Copyright © 1999 by the Cosmic Baseball Association