Sylvia Plath: A life in photographs: 1950-1955

Plath graduated Gamaliel Bradford Senior High School and spent the summer working on a farm. She entered Smith College in September. Plath's published journals and letters commence at this time and offer the reader a sort of autobiography by which thoughts, themes, and experiences were related privately (journals) and for an audience (letters). While she excelled at Smith, darker forces existed and after her Guest Editorship at Mademoiselle in August 1953, she attempted suicide. This is the story at the heart of her novel The Bell Jar. Once recovered - "patched, retreaded and approved for the road" (Chapter 20) - she re-entered Smith in January 1954. She led a freer life for her last three semesters as an undergraduate, receiving her diploma in June 1955. The next photograph gallery covers the period of 1955-1957, when Plath was a Fulbright Scholar at Newnham College, Cambridge University.


Please contact me regarding use of the photographs on this website. No photographs may be used without my consent.


plaths_royal

Reference:
Plath's Royal HH typewriter. A photograph of Plath working with this typewriter was taken in 1958. The typewriter and a copy of the photograph are now held at the Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College.

smith

Reference:
College Hall, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.

haven

Reference:
Haven House, Smith College. Plath's residence house from 1950-1952.

haven1

Reference:
Haven House, Smith College. Plath's room was on the third floor, on the right side of this picture.

lawrence_house

Reference:
Lawrence House, Smith College. Plath's residence house from 1952-1955.

lawrence1

Reference:
Lawrence House is next to the Library, off Green Street.

paradise

Reference:
Paradise Pond, Smith College. Where, according to Plath, the "girls take their boys to neck on weekends." See Plath's Journals, page 390.

ohp

Reference:
393 Walnut Street, Brookline, Massachusetts. The home of Olive Higgins Prouty, Plath's benefactress. See "Tea with Olive Higgins Prouty" in the Sylvia Plath Collection, Smith College.

newhaven

Reference:
Prospect Street, New Haven, Connecticut. Plath stayed at a house on this street when visiting Richard Norton.

newhaven1

Reference:
Behind the Sterling Chemistry Building looking towards downtown New Haven. See Plath's Journals, pages 51-52 and The Bell Jar, Chapter Five.

sterling

Reference:
Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, Yale College, New Haven. The front of the building is much nicer than the back.

swampscott

Reference:
144 Beach Bluff Avenue, Swampscott, Massachusetts. Plath baby-sat for the Mayo's during the summer of 1951.

swampscott1

Reference:
144 Beach Bluff Avenue, Swampscott, Massachusetts. The lawn looking towards the Atlantic.
See Plath's Journals, pages 67-68.

swampscott2

Reference:
144 Beach Bluff Avenue, Swampscott, Massachusetts. The front door faces west, away from the sea.

swampscott3

Reference:
144 Beach Bluff Avenue, Swampscott, Massachusetts. Taken from a plane, the red arrow points to the house and lawn.

childrens_island

Reference:
Looking towards Children's Island from the tip of Marblehead Neck. See Plath's poem "The Babysitters".

47_cypress

Reference:
47 Cypress Road, Wellesley, Massachusetts. The Norton family home.

the_belmont

Reference:
The Belmont Hotel, West Harwich, Cape Code. Plath was a waitress here briefly during the summer of 1952. See her Journals and Letters Home.

belmont_site

Reference:
Site of the Belmont Hotel, West Harwich, Cape Cod. Now condominiums, The Belmont Hotel stood here.

belmont_beach

Reference:
Now the beach is private, but once Plath likely swam here.

bay_lane

Reference:
Bay Lane, Chatham, Massachusetts. Plath was a mother's helper for the Cantor family at a house on this lane later in the summer of 1952.

chatham_bars

Reference:
The beach near Bay Lane. Plath took the Cantor children here.

14_wright_street

Reference:
14 Wright Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Residence of May Sarton. Plath interviewed Elizabeth Bowen here for Mademoiselle on 26 May 1953.

barbizon

Reference:
The Barbizon Hotel, 63rd and Lexington, New York, New York. Plath resided here from 1 to 27 June 1953 in room 1511.

barbizon1

Reference:
The Barbizon Hotel, New York. Plath renamed the hotel "The Amazon" in her novel, The Bell Jar.

575_madison

Reference:
575 Madison Avenue, New York, New York. The location of Mademoiselle's offices when Plath was Guest Editor in June 1953.

egg_rock

Reference:
Egg Rock, off Nahant, Massachusetts. See Plath's poem "Suicide Off Egg Rock" and The Bell Jar, Chapter 13.

egg_rock_1

Reference:
Egg Rock. From Long Beach, Lynn, Mass.

valleyhead3

Reference:
Valleyhead Hospital, 84 South Street, Carlisle, Massachusetts. Plath underwent badly administered ECT treatment here on 29 and 31 July 1953.

valleyhead4

Reference:
Valleyhead Hospital. An area on the side of the building.

valleyhead6

Reference:
Valleyhead Hospital. The other side of the building.

morses_pond

Reference:
Morses Pond, Wellesley, Massachusetts. Police and citizens searched for Plath here during her first suicide attempt in August 1953.

newton_wellesley_hosp

Reference:
Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Newton, Massachusetts. Plath first recuperated here.

mass_gen1

Reference:
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts. Plath transferred to the Psychiatric Ward here before being sent to McLean Hospital.

mclean

Reference:
McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts. Entrance. Plath's third and final hospital during her recovery.

mclean1

Reference:
Map of McLean grounds. The map is reminiscent of a university campus.

mclean6

Reference:
South Belknap House, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts. Formerly known as "Women's Belknap". After a period of time in Codman House, Plath recovered here.

South Belknap, rear

Reference:
South Belknap House, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts. Rear of the house showing a walled-in courtyard and likely part of a tunnel.

mclean5

Reference:
Plath would have been received and discharged here at the Administration Building, McLean Hospital. Plath may have used the color of this building to describe Dr. Gordon's private hospital in "Walton" in The Bell Jar.

mclean3

Reference:
Wyman House, McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts.
Likely the inspiration for Wymark in The Bell Jar.

widener

Reference:
In The Bell Jar, Esther meets Irwin at the top of the steps. See Chapter 19.

widener_tbj

Reference:
In Chapter 19 of The Bell Jar, Plath writes, "I was standing at the top of the long flight, overlooking the red brick buildings that walled the snow filled quad ..."

dodo_conway

Reference:
The view from Sylvia Plath's bedroom of 23 Elmwood Road. In The Bell Jar, Dodo Conway's house was "set behind a morbid facade of pine trees".

bay_state

Reference:
Bay State Apartments, 1572 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Mass.
Plath sublet Apt. 4 here in the summer of 1954. See Nancy Hunter-Steiner's A Closer Look at Ariel.