Anne Bradstreet was born in 1612 of nonconformist stock. Her father, Thomas Dudley, was a solider that had managed the affairs of the Earl of Lincoln. Due to her families position Anne was a well-educated woman. At the age of sixteen she married Simon Bradstreet. Her husband (as well as her father) served as a governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Anne and her husband, along with Anne’s family, sailed for America in 1630 as a Puritan emigrants. The Bradstreet and Dudley family were instrumental in founding Harvard.
Anne gave birth to eight children. Throughout her life she would taken her family (often while pregnant) and move all around New England with her husband. She died at the age of 60 in 1672.
Why You Should Know Her:
Anne Bradstreet is actually New England’s first published poet. In 1647 her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, sailed to England carrying with him a manuscript of her poetry. There is some discussion as to whether Anne knew it was to be published or not. More than likely she had intentions of publication but had to carry a hint of surprise at its publication because during this time period women authoring books was quite controversial.
Bradstreet was a friend of Anne Hutchinson but was less “liberal” in her views. Using contemporary terms Bradstreet saw herself as a complementarian but was very much an early feminist. Many believe that those around Bradstreet also believed that a godly and educated woman such as Anne could do such things as write and that would not necessarily contradict her other roles as a wife and a mother. Few held this view at the time and Bradstreet faced much opposition during her life.
Bradstreet’s poems are endearing and reflect much about the life of a Puritan woman. They were probably not originally intended for publication so they almost serve as a diary and an autobiography of the life of a godly and intellectual Puritan wife and mother.
One of Bradstreet’s poems was written before the birth of one of her children. In it one can see that those living in New England lived with constant reminders of their own mortality. Here we see both the joys and fears of a new mother. Even upon the joy of a child this pervasive death and toil is evident in her writing:
All things within this fading world hath end,
Adversity doth still our joys attend;
No ties so strong, no friends so dear and sweet,
But with death's parting blow is sure to meet.
The sentence past is most irrevocable,
A common thing, yet oh, inevitable.
How soon, my Dear, death may my steps attend.
How soon't may be thy lot to lose thy friend,
We both are ignorant, yet love bids me
These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
That when that knot's untied that made us one,
I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
And if I see not half my days that's due,
What nature would, God grant to yours and you;
The many faults that well you know
I have Let be interred in my oblivious grave;
If any worth or virtue were in me,
Let that live freshly in thy memory
And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harms,
Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms.
And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains
Look to my little babes, my dear remains.
And if thou love thyself, or loved'st me,
These O protect from step-dame's injury.
And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
With some sad sighs honour my absent hearse;
And kiss this paper for thy love's dear sake,
Who with salt tears this last farewell did take.
Several of Bradstreet’s poems can be found here.
You can find a good amount of information on Bradstreet here.
Some may be interested in her interesting genealogical record. (President Calvin Coolidge is a descendant of Bradstreet).
Also check out AnneBradstreet.com