26 August 2007

Sylvia Plath made the headlines 54 years ago

Update: At the time I wrote the post below in 2007, the information presented was the best that I had. Since that point, I have done extensive research into the subject of Sylvia Plath's disappearance and first suicide attempt in August 1953. The result of this research was published in a paper called "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath" which appearaed in Plath Profiles 3, published in Summer 2010.



54 years ago, Plath disappeared. The local Boston, Wellesley and Massachusetts newpapers ran a number of articles on her disappearance. The articles ran in various editions of the Boston Globe, the Boston Herald, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and the Townsman, of Wellesley.

The suicide attempt occured for a number of reasons. Plath retold the events in The Bell Jar. The lines from her poem "Lady Lazarus" chill its readers,

"The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls."

Below is a list of articles on the search for Sylvia Plath.

The Boston Daily Globe ran the article, “Beautiful Smith Girl Missing at Wellesley” on 25 August 1953.

The Boston Globe ran the article, “Day-Long Search Fails to find Smith Student” on 26 August 1953.

The Boston Evening Globe ran the article, “Police, Boy Scouts Hunt Missing Smith Student” on 25 August, 1953. They also ran “Smith Student Found Alive in Cellar” on 26 August, 1953.

The Boston Herald ran the article, “Top-ranking student at Smith missing from Wellesley Home” on 25 August 1953.

The Boston Herald ran the article “Sleeping Pills missing with Wellesley Girl” On 26 August 1953.

The Boston Herald ran the article, “Wellesley Girl Found in Cellar: Suffers from overdose of sleeping pills” on 27 August 1953. Also on 27 August, they ran the article, “Honor Student 'Out of Danger' Took Sleep Pills”.

The Townsman (Wellesley) ran the article, “Missing Smith Girl Worried” on 26 August 1953.

The Townsman (Wellesley) ran the article, “Sylvia Plath Found In Good Condition” on 27 August 1953.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette ran the article, “Hunt for missing Smith honor student who left on 'long hike' fruitless” on 25 August 1953.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette ran the article, “Carry on search for Plath girl” on 26 August 1953.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette ran the article, “Condition good of Smith senior who took pills” on 27 August 1953.

Also interesting are articles that ran during the month of June 1953 on the subject of the Rosenbergs execution. On 20 June, the day after the execution, the New York Times front page ran the article, "Rosenbergs Executed As Atom Spies After Supreme Court Vacates Stay; Last-Minute Please To President Fails." Pictures of Julius and Ethel stare out at its readers.


You can see a bibliography of articles on Plath's first suicide attempt, and read PDF's of them, over at A celebration, this is.

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.

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