Anne Gray Harvey was born November 9, 1928 in Weston, Mass. to Mary Gray Staples Harvey and Ralph Churchill Harvey. The youngest of three sisters, Anne was the baby of the family, always craving attention and loving to be held. Growing up, Anne saw her eldest sister, Jane, become Daddy's girl, while her other sister Blanche, became reknown as the smart one of the three, loving to read and the only one to go to college. Her parents moving to Wellesley, Mass., Anne attended public schools from the time she was 6 until she was 17. At the age of 17, her parents sent her off to Rogers Hall, a preparatory school for girls, in Lowell, Mass.; hoping to 'cure' her of her wild nature and shape her into a proper woman. It was here that Anne first began to write poetry, which was published in the school yearbook. Yet shortly after beginning the call she had, her mother, who had come from a family of writers, accused Anne of plagiarism, disbelieving that her daughter could posess the talent to write such lovely poetry. Continuing on with the refinement of her womanhood, Anne attended the Garland School in Boston, a finishing school for women. It was here that she met and eloped with Alfred Muller Sexton II, whom everbody called Kayo. Kayo and Anne moved to Hamilton, New York, where Kayo was attending Colgate, University. Unable to afford making a living and supporting a wife, Kayo decided that they should move back to Massachusetts. Upon moving back, Anne enrolled in a modeling class at the Hart Agency, completing the course and going on to model for the agency for a short period of time. Meanwhile, Kayo had joined the naval reserve and had been shipped out on the USS Boxer to Korea. In 1952, Kayo came home for a year after the Boxer received war damage. It was during this time that Anne and Kayo conceived their first child. In July 1953, shortly after Kayo had been shipped out again, Anne gave birth to Linda Gray Sexton. Later that year Kayo was discharged and he returned home where he and Anne purchased a home in Newton Lower Falls, Massachusetts, not far from either of their parents.
In 1954, Anne began struggling with recurring depression and began seeking counseling. During the time of her counseling she and Kayo gave birth to their second child, Joyce Ladd Sexton, whom they nicknamed Joy. Beginning in 1956, Annes mental condition worstened, leading up to her first psychiatric hospitalization and her first suicide attempt. In December of that year, under the guidance of her psychiatrist, Dr. Martin, she resumed writing poetry. Finding therapeutic value in her writing, she enrolled in John Holme's poetry workshop, where she met Maxine Kumin. Yet falling, once again into a deep depression, Anne attempted suicide again in May, 1957. Again hospitalized, she continued to write poetry and in August received a scholarship to Antioch Writers' Conference, where she met W. D. Snodgrass. In 1958, Anne enrolled in Robert Lowell's graduate writing seminar at Boston University, where she met Sylvia Plath and George Starbuck. In 1959, she was awarded the Audience Poetry Prize. With this award Anne began work to publish the first of her books of poetry entitled To Bedlam and Part Way Back. The publisment of this book spurred Anne to keep writing and led to national recognition of her work. Following her first book, Anne published her second book,in 1962, entitled All My Pretty Ones. Following the release of this work, Anne continued her success by working on four children's books with her longtime friend Maxine Kumin. During the span of August 22 to October 27, 1963, Anne toured Europe on a travelling fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Despite enjoying the trip, Anne returned a month early due to an emotional disturbance. Nineteen sixty-four proved to be an interesting year in Anne's clinical life as her longtime psychiatrist moved his practice to Philadelphia, and she began seeing a new psychiatrist who started Anne on the drug, Thorazine, to control her on going depression and hospitalizatizations. In 1965, she was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in London. Following this award she published her Pulitzer-prize winning book entitled Live or Die, in 1966. Continuing writing and teaching English literature at Wayland, Mass. High School, in June 1968 Anne was awarded honorary Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard becoming the first woman ever to join the 187-year-old chapter. Beginning in 1969, Anne published her book entitled Love Poems, following this book she continued work on her play Mercy Street until the fall where she began teaching a poetry seminar at Boston University. The success of her seminar led to her appointment as a lecturer at Boston University,in 1970 and her eventual award of full professorship, in 1972.
Despite her success as a writer, poet, and playwright, Anne's personal life took a sudden plunge in 1973, where she was hospitalized three times and received a divorce from her husband during the course of the year. Surviving much of the following year, Anne managed to bring her final works to a conclusion with the publishment of The Death Notebooks, a completed final editing of The Awful Rowing Toward God, and a tentative arrangement of poems in 45 Mercy Street. The conclusiveness of the works seemed to Anne to be a proper stopping point. Following her last poetry reading at Goucher College in Maryland on October 3, 1974, Anne returned home to commit suicide in her garage on October 4, 1974 by way of carbon monoxide poisoning. The tragic end she brought to her life was the result of several years of battling depression and dissatisfaction with her place in life. Despite this truth, she carved a place in the minds and hearts of the American literary world forever.
In recent days, the release of Diane Wood Middlebrook's biography of Anne Sexton's life has caused controversy in the circles of certain groups of psychiatrists and moralists. The controversy centers around Middlebrook's decision to include within her biography, excerpts from tapes recorded during Anne's therapy sessions. The tapes were released to Middlebrook under the strict permission of Anne's daughter, Linda Gray Sexton who authorized Middlebrook to utilize all resources that she had to construct a thourough biography of Anne's life. Though the controversy is real to many, the question of doctor-patient confidentiality has done little to hurt the success of the biography in the eyes of the general public.