Julie Dobrow

Julie Dobrow

People often ask me how I got interested in writing AFTER EMILY. After all, my training was mostly in media studies and I mostly teach courses about media effects. The answer to the question actually goes back many years.

When I was in college, I frequently walked by the two Dickinson family homes in Amherst, Massachusetts, and wondered about the lives of those who'd lived there. I've always been an avid biography reader, and it was in reading biographies about Emily Dickinson that I first encountered Mabel Loomis Todd. I was intrigued by Mabel: she was a fascinating woman who just didn't seem to fit easily into the 19th century world she occupied.

Then I learned that she had an equally remarkable and multi-faceted daughter, Millicent Todd Bingham, about whom very little was known. No one had written a full-length biography of either woman. And it turned out there was an enormous archive of their papers - neither woman ever threw out a single scrap of paper in her life - that could be used to start figuring out their chronologies, delving into their accomplishments, and telling their stories. Because both of them were also devoted diarists (Mabel kept both a daily diary and a journal for 66 years, Millicent kept both for close to 80), I had the unique opportunity to learn not only about what they did in their lives, but also what they thought and felt about them.

In fact, many aspects of my experience aided me in writing their intertwined narratives. My undergraduate training in anthropology and sociology and my professional experiences as a freelance journalist helped me to know how to ask good questions and how to tell a good story. The fact that my own professional life has been so interdisciplinary (I've taught courses in departments ranging from communications to environmental studies to child development) enabled me to understand different aspects of Mabel and Millicent's lives. My interdisciplinary focus also liberated me from trying to envision my work through only one lens. This approach has been really helpful, especially when telling the stories of two women who pushed up against the edges of their times in so many different and varied ways.

Julie Dobrow is a professor with appointments in the department of Child Study and Human Development and the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University and serves as director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. Her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe Magazine and the Huffington Post, among other publications. She lives outside of Boston

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    • Two Remarkable Women and the Legacy of America's Greatest Poet
    • By: Julie Dobrow
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    • Length: 17 hrs and 9 mins
    • Release date: 10-30-18
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