Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah — it’s Emily

The big story about Emily Dickinson isn’t simply that she was a foodie and well-reputed bakerbut who was in the kitchen with her.

Revealing a truly American tale,  the poet-daughter of a Yankee lawyer, of English stock, rubs elbows daily in the kitchen with immigrants, the descendants of slaves, and with Native American maids, laborers, gardeners, and seamstresses.

Among them was Margaret Maher, an Irish immigrant who, as cook and maid, spent 17 years sharing the kitchen with baker Emily.

At the top left of this Kelley family portrait — almost all of whom worked for the poet — is Tom Kelley, the man Emily requested as her chief pallbearer. Below is Native man and Dickinson laborer Henry Hawkins with his Native-African American granddaughter Helen in a snapshot taken in their backyard. Below them (on some but not all platforms) is a studio portrait of Henry’s mother-in-law, Eliza Thompson, who was often hired to serve guests at the Dickinson’s annual summer gatherings.

The well-loved myth of the recluse erases what was really going on — from maids and laborers exerting linguistic influences on her language to actually saving her poems from planned destruction.

For more drop in and tune up to the Kitchen Sisters upcoming show on Emily D’s hidden kitchen.

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