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Sylvia Plath was born into a middle class family in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father's death when she was eight years old was a pivotal point in her life. That same year she published her first poem. Her father's death had a significant impact on her life and work, and the themes of death and her father are woven throughout her poetry and prose. She sold her first poem to SEVENTEEN magazine while in high school and continued to be published in popular magazines throughout her life.

Plath entered Smith College in 1951, suffering a nervous breakdown in the Fall of her junior year of college. She attempted to commit suicide by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills and was committed to a psychiatric hospital. She spent several months there before returning to school. Despite the interruption in her studies, she graduated summa cum laude from Smith. She received a Fulbright scholarship to study at Cambridge University, and while in England, she met her future husband, the poet Ted Hughes.

After giving birth to her daughter, Freda, in 1960 and her son, Nicholas, in 1962, Plath published THE BELL JAR under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas." The autobiographical novel recounted the experiences of a college girl who attempted suicide and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. The book would not be published under her name until after her death. Hughes had left her at this point, and Plath descended into a depression from which she would never return. On February 11, 1963 Plath put her head into a gas oven and ended her life through asphyxiation. Her children lay sleeping in the next room, and she had left a plate of bread and cups of milk for them to find in the morning.

Most of her work was published posthumously by Ted Hughes. Her work was lauded by literary critics and many of her poems have been canonized into the volumes of great literature. THE BELL JAR continues to sell over 100,000 copies a year. THE COLLECTED POEMS, published posthumously in 1981, won a Pulitzer Prize. Plath also wrote two children's books, THE BED BOOK and THE IT DOESN'T MATTER SUIT. The latter was not discovered until 33 years after her death in 1996.


1932 She was born in Boston, Massachusetts. (October 27)

1940 Her father, Otto Plath, died.; She published her first poem.

1951 She entered Smith College.

1952 She was a cowinner of the MADEMOISELLE magazine fiction contest.

1952 She attempted suicide by swallowing a bottle of sleeping pills. (August 24)

1954 She returned to Smith after spending several months in a psychiatric hospital.

1955 She graduated from Smith with highest honors.; She entered Newnham College in Cambridge, England.

1956 She married Ted Hughes.

1960 She gave birth to her daughter, Freda; THE COLOSSUS was published.

1962 She gave birth to her son, Nicholas.

1963 THE BELL JAR was published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas."; She died in London, England. (February 11)

1965 ARIEL was published.

1966 THE BELL JAR was reissued under Plath's name.

1968 THREE WOMEN was published.

1971 CROSSING THE WATER and WINTER TREES were published.

1976 THE BED BOOK was published.


1981 THE COLLECTED POEMS was published.

1982 THE JOURNALS OF SYLVIA PLATH was published.

1985 SELECTED POEMS was published.

1996 THE IT DOESN'T MATTER SUIT was published.