Past the brick row-homes that have come to define Baltimore, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, established in 1854, sits on the corner of Read and Cathedral Streets. A striking example of Gothic architecture in Baltimore, the church was designed by Niernsee & Neilson. The towers and archways invoke a time long past, of feudalistic morality and rigid social structures of the separation of the few from the struggles of the many, and yet, it was this building that hosted one of the twentieth century’s most controversial and feminist writers, Edna St. Vincent Millay.
The first woman in history to receive a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, Edna St. Vincent Millay, or “Vincent” as she preferred to be called, is remembered by scholar Robert Gale as the “poetic voice of eternal youth, feminine revolt and liberation, and potent sensitivity and suggestiveness.” Born in 1892 and raised by an independent mother in New England, she published her first poem, Renascence, in 1912. Continuing on to Vassar College in 1913, she pursued acting and writing, flouting the rules and societal prescripts by smoking, drinking, and dating freely among the all-female population. It was in 1925 on one of her tours that Mrs. Sally Bruce Kingsolver asked her to read at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church for the Poetry Society of Maryland. What poems she read is not recorded but she surely read with the passion of one who rubbed so far against the grain.
This heritage space is open to the public during business hours.