Anne Gray Harvey was born in 1928 in Weston, Massachusetts, the third of three daughters. Her father, Ralph Churchill Harvey, was a businessman and her mother, Mary Gray Staples, a socialite. Sexton conformed to the stereotype of a youngest child, often acting out and rebelling against her parents to get attention. Her frenetic activity and craving for attention continued through her high school years, which were otherwise unremarkable. Like many young women of her social class during midcentury, Sexton went to finishing school instead of college, and in 1948, she married Alfred Muller Sexton II, nicknamed “Kayo.”
Sexton’s engagement with poetry came only after she had given birth to her two children: Linda Gray Sexton in 1953 and Joyce Ladd Sexton in 1955. After the birth of her second child, Sexton was diagnosed with post-partum depression and prescribed medication. Over the next few years, she went in and out of hospitals and received regular psychiatric treatment. With the encouragement of her therapist, Dr. Martin Orne, Sexton began writing poetry, and in 1957, she enrolled in a poetry workshop with Beat writer John Clellon Holmes. During the next few years, she took part in workshops led by poets Robert Lowell and W. D. Snodgrass and met many of the writers who would help shape her career, including George Starbuck and Maxine Kumin. It was in Lowell’s workshop that Sexton befriended poet Sylvia Plath. After her publication of To Bedlam...
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