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Anne Bradstreet

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About Anne Bradstreet:

Dates: ~1612 - September 16, 1672

Occupation: poet

Known for: Anne Bradstreet was America's first published poet. She's also known, through her writings, for her intimate view of life in early Puritan New England. In her poems, women are quite capable of reason, even while Anne Bradstreet largely accepts the traditional and Puritan assumptions about gender roles.

Also known as: Anne Dudley, Anne Dudley Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet Biography:

Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley, one of six children of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke Dudley. Her father was a clerk, and served as steward (estate manager) for the Earl of Lincoln's estate in Sempsingham. Anne was privately educated, and read extensively from the Earl's library. (The Earl of Lincoln's mother was also an educated woman who had published a book on child care.)

After a bout with smallpox, Anne Bradstreet married her father's assistant, Simon Bradstreet, probably in 1628. Her father and husband were both among the Puritans of England, and the Earl of Lincoln supported their cause. But when their position in England weakened, some Puritans decided to move to America and establish a model community.

Anne Bradstreet and the New World:

Anne Bradstreet, along with her husband and her father, and such others as John Winthrop and John Cotton, were in the Arbella, the lead ship of eleven that set off in April and landed in Salem Harbor in June of 1630.

The new immigrants including Anne Bradstreet found conditions much worse than they'd expected. Anne and her family had been relatively comfortable in England; now, life was harsher. Yet, as a later poem of Bradstreet's makes clear, they "submitted" to God's will.

Anne Bradstreet and her husband moved around quite a bit, living in Salem, Boston, Cambridge, and Ipswich before settling in 1645 or 1646 in North Andover on a farm. Beginning in 1633, Anne bore eight children. As she noted in a later poem, half were girls, half boys:

I had eight birds hatched in one nest,
Four Cocks there were, and Hens the rest.

Anne Bradstreet's husband was a lawyer, judge, and legislator who was often absent for long periods. In 1661, he even returned to England to negotiate new charter terms for the colony with King Charles II. These absences left Anne in charge of the farm and family, keeping house, raising the children, managing the farm's work.

When her husband was home, Anne Bradstreet often acted as hostess. Her health was often poor, and she had bouts of serious illness. It is likely that she had tuberculosis. Yet among all this, she found time to write poetry.

Anne Bradstreet's brother-in-law, the Rev. John Woodbridge, took some of her poems to England with him, where he had them published without her knowledge in 1650 in a book titled The Tenth Muse Lately Spring Up in America.

Anne Bradstreet continued to write poetry, focusing more on personal experience and everyday life. She edited ("corrected") her own version of the earlier works for republication, and after her death, a collection titled Several Poems including many new poems and a new edition of The Tenth Muse was published in 1678.

Anne Bradstreet also wrote prose, addressed to her son, Simon, with advice on such things as how to raise "Diverse Children."

Cotton Mather mentions Anne Bradstreet in one of his books. He compares her to such (female) luminaries as "Hippatia" and the Empress Eudocia.

Anne Bradstreet died on September 16, 1672, after a few months' illness. While the cause of death is not certain, the likelihood is that it was her tuberculosis.

Twenty years after her death, her husband played a minor role in the events surrounding the Salem witch trials.

Descendants of Anne Bradstreet include Oliver Wendell Holmes, Richard Henry Dana, William Ellery Channing, and Wendell Phillips.

More: About Anne Bradstreet's Poetry

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