Anne Emerson grew up in Newton and Brookline, the daughter of a Boston doctor. She went to public schools in Brookline and then to the Winsor School and Brown University. At Brown she studied creative writing with John Hawkes. She did graduate work at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and later at the Boston University School of Management in the public management program. In her early thirties, finding herself on her own with two small daughters, she went to work at Boston University as an administrator. There she was on the team that developed Boston’s Huntington Theater and ultimately she married its first artistic director, Peter Altman. In 1988 she moved to Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs where she was executive director for a decade. In the evenings she took creative writing classes at the Harvard Extension School.


In 1998 Emerson became the executive director of the Bostonian Society with a vision to develop a major history center for the city. She continued to lead the Boston Museum Project, which split from the Bostonian Society, until 2008. At that point she began her work on Letters from Erastus: Field Notes on Grace. She lives in Jamaica Plain with her husband and spends her time writing and painting.