September 23, 2004
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.- The Emily Dickinson Museum and the Amherst College English Department will present "Margaret Maher's Amherst- Emily Dickinson's Maid and Muse," a walking tour led by Aife Murray, scholar and artist, on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 1:30 p.m. Free and open to the public, the tour will explore the town of Amherst from the perspective of Margaret Maher, longtime employee of the Dickinson family. Participants should meet on the lawn of the Museum, at 280 Main St. in Amherst. The walk route is about a mile and a half in length and includes some moderate uphill walking. The rain date is Sunday, Oct. 24 at 1:30 p.m.
Margaret Maher-a maid whom the poet Emily Dickinson described as "brave - faithful - punctual - and courageous-" was a poor immigrant from County Tipperary Ireland. This competent young woman was headed to California when the Dickinson family brought her into the Homestead kitchen,where she worked for 30 years. Baking loaf cakes together or washing dishes, Dickinson and Maher shared much of the day- and they shared sensibilities that included respect for the power of poetry. The tour will explore "downstairs" at the Homestead and the bond between the poor Irish Catholic Margaret Maher and wealthy New England Protestant Emily Dickinson that changed American literary history.
Aífe Murray is a scholar, writer and artist based in San Francisco. She has given presentations and exhibited or performed her work in the United States and abroad. She first created the tour "Margaret Maher's Amherst" in 1997 as part of her mixed media and public art installation for the exhibition Language as Object: Emily Dickinson and Contemporary Art at the Mead Art Museum, Amherst College. She studied language and art history at the University of Florence (Italy), is a history and social theory graduate of Hampshire College, and has an M.A. in English - Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Murray's forthcoming book, Maid as Muse - Margaret Maher and Her Poet Emily Dickinson, will look at how Margaret Maher and other poor servants altered the life course of not only a poet but of American literature.
The Emily Dickinson Museum consists of two historic houses, the Homestead and The Evergreens. The Museum is owned by the Trustees of Amherst College. In October the Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. Please visit the Museum's Website at www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org for more information about guided tours and other programs. For more information about this program, please contact Cindy Dickinson, director of interpretation and programming, at 413/542-8429.