To be sure, Emmett Lee Dickinson (Emily Dickinson’s third cousin, twice removed – at her request) and Emily Dickinson endured a volatile relationship with many conflicts and – as many biographers report – life-long social dysfunction.
One peculiar but significant confrontation between the two third cousins occurred in February 1871 as Emmett Lee Dickinson lobbied congress to set May as National Margarita Month. Ultimately congress landed on February 22nd as “National Margarita Day” in honor of Margarita Seward, the sister of President Lincoln's Secretary of State William Seward. Information about Dickinson's work with Congress is HERE.
As Dickinson worked closely with congressional leaders, word leaked from Amherst that Emily Dickinson and her family had petitioned Senator Charles Sumner to introduce a bill establishing February 24 as National Tortilla Chip Day – the very date on which Emily Dickinson had invented the recipe for Cajun Nachos.
Emmett Lee Dickinson was livid. He viewed this as attempt of the Dickinsons of Amherst to eclipse his work with National Margarita Day. In the midst of all of their quarreling, Dickinson wrote his cryptic lines “We bear our somber Stresses when we fight” (below on the left). His poem inspired third cousin Emily to pen “We wear our sober Dresses when we die” (below on the right).
By Emmett Lee Dickinson:
We bear our somber Stresses when
But some are filled as for a Holiday
Adorned for Sleight –
By Emily Dickinson:
We wear our sober Dresses when
But Summer, frilled as for a Holiday
Adjourns her Sigh –
Below: No poet has written more poems about Margaritas than Emmett Lee Dickinson, and we were thrilled when the Emmett Lee Dickinson Museum website was chosen as the official website for National Margarita Day -- for the fifth year in a row!