12th Annual Women's History Tour: Experience Historic Amherst

Once again, the Events Committee of the Worcester Women's History Project did an outstanding job putting together the yearly bus trip (C.J. Posk and Hanna Solska, co-chairs).  This year we traveled to Amherst  for all things Emily—that is, Emily Dickinson.  There is an Emily Dickinson-Worcester connection.  Sarah Cushing Tuckerman, wife of Amherst professor Edward Tuckerman, and Emily Dickinson were part of the social scene during Emily's lifetime.  Sarah received notes and poems written by Emily.  Stephen Salisbury I married Elizabeth Tuckerman.  Tuckerman Hall is named after her. 

Just like all WWHP events, quality describes this Amherst trip the best. 

We arrived in Amherst about 8 a.m. with our first stop being the Dickinson family home ("The Mansion").  It is a large stately house located a short distance from the center of town.  An excavation was in progress at the back of the house, the purpose of which was to locate the original barn and related objects.  It is always interesting to see actual excavations in progress and the history being unearthed.  A small artifact was found while we were there.

On to the tour of the home.  We were extremely fortunate to have a docent who not only was well versed in Emily's life but also in the lives of her family and life in Amherst at that time.  Her knowledge, admiration and love of Emily Dickinson was evident in her presentation.  We had a wonderful dialogue between our group and the docent.  She put to rest some myths about Emily:"No, she did not dress only in white.... Yes, she did have a "male friend.”  Emily's comments about this relationship would lead you to believe it may have been more than friendship.  He was a widowed judge and they spent many hours together alone.  A good round of applause went out for our docent. 

The next stop and just a footpath away is her brother William Austin Dickinson's home.  Although it is in need of great repair, it is equally impressive.  It is another window into the Dickinson family life.  Austin, as he was called, was the "star of the family.”  His life was sad yet fascinating.  His son died at an early age.  The family was devastated by the loss and Emily grieved deeply. The house itself was well known for its parties, especially lavish dinner parties.  Austin also had a long-standing affair with Mabel Loomis Todd.  Mabel was responsible for finding and transcribing Emily's work and bringing it to publication.

We then chose to walk or ride to the Amherst Library.  There, after a brief presentation, we were free to explore photos and writings of Emily, her family and their home.  In addition, there was also a big emphasis on Robert Frost.  

On display were photos, writings and stories of his link to Amherst.

Lunch was on our own. Fortunately, my granddaughter Hayley is a student at UMASS-Amherst.  She found us a great reasonable restaurant.  After lunch, we still had time to "shop Amherst" which is always a great experience.  A farmers’ market was in progress in the center of town.

Then we all met at the Amherst Historical Society and Museum.  The Society was founded in 1899 and is housed in the 1750 Simeon Strong house.  There were many artifacts of Amherst dating back 300 years.  There we saw the original "little white dress" not done yet.  The bus took us to Emily Dickinson's gravesite and then lastly to "the Kitchen Garden."  The Sixteenth Century Renaissance Kitchen Garden is a jewel.  Here we found plant strains dating back to1500 AD or before.  There was an apple orchard with similar lineage.

If you have never gone on a WWHP trip, "you gotta go.”  It's fun, fabulous, educational, extraordinary, and also a terrific way to meet and talk with other WWHP members and friends.                  

For the past 3 years, I've invited my granddaughters and daughters-in-law to join me.   After their first experience, they were sold.  They start asking right after Christmas for the next trip.

Come join us next Spring.  Invite your daughters, your granddaughters, mothers, sisters, and friends.  You will not be dis-appointed.

Here are my granddaughters’ comments:

"I have gone to the WWHP annual bus trip for the past 3 years and the 2015 Emily Dickinson trip was a delight.  Furthermore, as a UMASS-Amherst student, it was real interesting to learn about Amherst's rich culture." (Hayley Gleason, WWHP Member)

"I learned who Emily Dickinson was in high school, but really didn't know anything about her until I went on the WWHP trip this year.  It was a very interesting and educational trip."   (Josselyn Gleason Vinsh)

Try it—you'll like it—actually love it!


Published Date: 
September 22, 2015