Two Young Women

Elizabeth Bishop Letter to Louise Bradley
Letter sent by Elizabeth Bishop to Louise Bradley,
29 August 1926

Louise—is it right for a young woman
to trail off to the ends of the earth—
And live in strange places and do strange things—
or two young women. You come with me.
When my -- -- -- education is finished.
Lets. And then retire to Ireland
and raise bees—and live by the ocean
in a stone cottage—and write poetry
for a living. Oh!! Will you!

—Elizabeth Bishop to Louise Bradley, 1926

Louise Bradley at Camp Chequesset
Portrait of Louise Bradley with Chequesset headband,
c. 1922


Louise Bradley (1908-1979) lived and died in Arlington, Massachussetts but was descended from Theophilus Wylie on her mother's side and attended Indiana University for one unhappy year before transferring to Radcliffe College. She traveled widely throughout her life and attended summer camp as a girl at Camp Chequesset in Cape Cod, where she met a young Elizabeth Bishop in 1924. From the Bishop correspondence, we know that Bradley harbored creative aspirations as a young woman and even shared her poetry with a teenaged Bishop, but she never enjoyed the literary success of her friend.

Elizabeth Bishop, who was only thirteen years old at the time of their meeting, must have admired Louise Bradley, who was three years older and was more sociable and confident than Bishop was at the time. Very quickly, their relationship evolved from one of admiration to one of respect and affectionate friendship. Bishop came to see Bradley as a confidante and kindred spirit and wrote to her often to express insecurities surrounding her poetry and frustration with her circumstances. She complained of acquaintances from camp and, at times, wistfully imagined sharing a life of adventure with Bradley.

Campers at Camp Chequesset

Unidentified girls on the beach at Camp Chequesset, which Bradley attended the summers of 1921, 1922, 1923, and 1924,

the year she met Bishop, who attended 1924, 1925, 1926, and 1927.

Two Young Women