She attended Amherst Academy until she was seventeen, and then spent a year at the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College). She studied a diversity of subjects, including botany and horticulture, which would become lifelong interests. Among writers she studied, she was particularly inspired by the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the novelist George Eliot. It was during her year at Mount Holyoke that she began to question, and even to voice dissension from, her father’s strict religious views.
Emily Dickinson, writing to the editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson in July 1862, reported that she “had no portrait,” but offered the following description in place of one: “Small, like the Wren, and my Hair is bold, like the Chestnut Bur—and my eyes, like the Sherry in the Glass, that the Guest leaves—Would this do just as well?”