Anne Sexton was born in November of 1928 in Newton, Massachusetts. Her full birth-name was, Anne Gray Harvey, and her parents were Mary Gray Harvey and Ralph Churchill Harvey. She had two older sisters and spent most of her youth in Boston.
Education and Marriage
As a young girl she was enrolled in Rogers Hall boarding school in Lowell, Massachusetts and then later at Garland School. Soon after this she began work as a fashion model for Boston’s Hart Agency. In 1948, she married Alfred Muller Sexton. The couple remained together until 1973. Sexton gave birth to her first child, a girl named Linda Gray, in 1953.
In 1954, Sexton suffered her first manic episode. This was followed up with a second in 1955 after the birth of her second child, Joyce Ladd Sexton. She was suffering from postpartum depression and she had to be admitted to a neuropsychiatric hospital. It was here that she first began to write poetry after being encouraged to do so by her doctors. She also started keeping a journal and in it she developed her mature writing style. Her first pieces were accepted by publications such as Harper’s Magazine andThe New Yorker.
She wrote about her psychiatric struggles and her first book, To Bedlam and Part Way Back, was published in 1960. During her lifetime her work was extremely popular and she was the recipient of awards such as the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, Shelley Memorial Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1967, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Live or Die.
Later Life and Death
Throughout her life she collaborated with a number of remarkable artists, including a jazz-rock group which added her poetry to their music. In 1969, Sexton’s play, Mercy Street, was produced.
On October 4, 1974, after having lunch with Maxine Kumin, with whom she co-wrote four children’s books, Sexton locked herself in the garage. She had put on her mother’s coat, taken off her rings, and started the engine of her car. She died due to carbon monoxide poisoning. She was buried at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts.