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Sylvia Plath Papers

Identifier: CA-MS-00142

Scope and Contents

The Sylvia Plath Papers contain biographical information, photographs, press releases, writings by and about Plath. There is a small amount of correspondence relating to Plath. Most of the items in the collection are published materials. The collection is contained in one box that is 5 linear inches.

Dates of Materials

  • Creation: 1950 - 2001
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1952-1963


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Sylvia Plath was born in Boston Massachusetts to Aurelia and Otto Plath on October 27, 1932. A talented writer, her first poem was published in the Boston Sunday Herald when she was eight years old. In 1940 her father, a professor of Biology at Boston University died after a long illness, and Plath never fully recovered from this loss. Plath lived in Wellesley, and graduated from Bradford Senior High School, and received the Olive Higgins Prouty Scholarship at Smith College, which she attended from 1950-55.

While at Smith, Plath was very active in many organizations while excelling academically and being named a first group scholar each semester. She was the Press Board Correspondent for the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the Springfield Daily News, and she was also editor of the Smith Review, the college literary magazine. She was also on the editorial board of the Campus Cat, a college humor magazine, as well as secretary of the honor board, a member of Alpha Phi- Kappa Psi, and Phi Beta Kappa. Additionally, Plath taught art at the People's Institute in Northampton and served on the sophomore PUSH committee. In her sophomore year she had several poems published by Harper's Magazine, won two Smith College Prize Awards for Poetry, and she also had several short stories and poems published in Seventeen Magazine. During the summer of 1953, Plath was named one of 20 guest editors of Mademoiselle Magazine. However, in August of that year, Plath attempted to kill herself by overdosing on sleeping pills. She spent the next six months in McLean Hospital.

During the summer of 1954, Plath received a full scholarship to study German at the Harvard Summer School, before returning to Smith that fall for her senior year. After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Smith in June of 1955, she received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Cambridge. While she was there, she met Ted Hughes. They were married on December 7, 1956, in London. From 1957-58, Plath returned to the United States to be an instructor in English Language and Literature at Smith College, however, although she enjoyed teaching, she found no time to spend on her writing, and so she gave up teaching and settled permanently in England in 1959. In 1960, Plath published her first book of poetry, The Colossus, and in April of that year, bore her first child, Frieda. Two years later, in 1962, her son Nicholas was born. However, Plath's marriage was falling apart, and Hughes eventually left her for another woman. In January of 1963, she published a novel, The Bell Jar, under the pen name, Victoria Lucas. (Although published in England in 1963, it was not published in America until 1971.) A month later, on February 11, 1963 Plath committed suicide. She was 30 years old. A second book of poetry, Ariel, written in the last few months of her life, was published after her death.


0.438 linear feet (1 container)

Language of Materials



Professor of English at Smith College and poet, novelist, and essayist. Contains biographical information, photographs, press releases, writings by and about Plath.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The materials in the Sylvia Plath Hughes papers came to the College Archives from a number of sources.

Related Material

Additional information about Plath's Smith College experience may be found in the Class of 1955 records, the English Department records, student publications of the time, and a subject file on Plath which is available in the College Archives Reading Room. The primary source for Plath material at Smith College is the Mortimer Rare Book Collection.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to the Sylvia Plath Papers
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Nanci A. Young
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2018-11-09: Containers added and finding aid updated as part of College Archives survey

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063