Sam’s teaching job at the art department of Northeastern University meant the family could afford to live in a handsome 19th-century clapperboard house on Hollis Avenue. Bishop got on especially well with her little brother. Kathleen Oldham, a friend of Bishop’s from that time, told The New Yorker magazine, “She doted on her little brother. They both loved music, loved science. She seemed to enjoy having someone younger to collaborate with.”
Bishop’s mother Judy came from a respected New England family while her father’s parents had arrived in the U.S. from Greece. He had changed his name from Sotir Papazoglos to Sam Bishop after serving in the air force in the 1950s. The couple’s academic and gifted children are said to have had some difficulty fitting in with the folks of Braintree. Oldham described it as a “jock town.” Bishop gained the reputation of being something of a loner. Nevertheless, she and Seth seem to have enjoyed a happy childhood.
Bishop attended Braintree High School where she distinguished herself with her academic ability and a talent for playing the violin. The student passed out of the institution with top grades. These allowed her to go on to study at Northeastern University, where her father Sam still taught in the art department.