Arts and Leisure

Anne Bradstreet, 1st Woman Poet in America

Anne Bradstreet wasn’t just the first woman to be published in England's North American colonies. She was the first Englishwoman to publish a book of poems and the first published American poet.

Her brother-in-law took her poems to England to be published in 1650 under the title, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in AmericaHe claimed he did it without her knowledge, but he may have just wanted to protect her reputation.

Anne Bradstreet acted chagrined. She wrote a poem apologizing about her poetry. It began, 'Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain.' But she probably didn’t mean it.

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Anne Bradstreet

Who Was Anne Bradstreet?

 

Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley on March 20, 1612 in England, the daughter of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke. Well-educated as a girl, she married Simon Bradstreet when she was 16.

She came to America in 1630 aboard the Arbella with her husband and her father, both of whom became governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

After they landed in Salem, Simon and Anne Bradstreet moved to Charlestown, then Boston, then  Cambridge, then Ipswich, then North Andover. They had eight children.

All eight of them lived to adulthood. She was lucky. The New England wilderness was dangerous. About 20 percent of children died in their first year, and as many as 40 percent failed to reach adulthood.

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Second edition of Anne Bradstreet's poems

She deeply mourned the loss of three of her young grandchildren, who died within a short period.

The good Puritan mother was supposed to wean herself from her attachment to her children. She should let them go to their heavenly reward -- and be happy about it.

Anne Bradstreet tried. When her grandchild Elizabeth died at one-and-a-half years old, she wrote,

Blest babe why should I once bewail thy fate, Or sigh thy days so soon were terminate; Since thou are settled in an Everlasting state.

She wrote many poems about her marriage, her children and the world around her. Her feelings about her children are expressed in the poem, In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659. It ends:

When each of you shall in your nest
Among your young ones take your rest,
In chirping languages oft them tell
You had a Dame that lov’d you well,
That did what could be done for young
And nurst you up till you were strong
And ‘fore she once would let you fly
She shew'd you joy and misery,
Taught what was good, and what was ill,
What would save life, and what would kill.
Thus gone, amongst you I may live,
And dead, yet speak and counsel give.
Farewell, my birds, farewell, adieu,
I happy am, if well with you.

(Read the whole poem here.)

Anne's father and husband helped found Harvard, and two of her sons graduated from the college. In 1997, Harvard dedicated the Bradstreet Gate in her memory.

Later in life, Anne Bradstreet suffered from tuberculosis and paralysis of her joints. In 1666, when she was in her mid-50s, her house burned down and her family left homeless. She died at the age of 60 on Sept. 16, 1672.

The descendants of Anne Bradstreet include Herbert HooverOliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.Sarah Orne Jewett and John Kerry.

 

9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Cindy Riggins Kackowski

    June 23, 2014 at 9:13 am

    How beautiful and sad at the same time .

  2. Cindy Riggins Kackowski

    June 23, 2014 at 9:13 am

    How beautiful and sad at the same time .

  3. Colleen Cox Kopchick

    June 23, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Anne Bradstreet is my 10th great-grandmother!

  4. Karel Lucander

    June 23, 2014 at 10:09 am

    Wow, Colleen, that is really cool!

  5. Alison Herman Schooley

    June 23, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Love it I hadn’t heard of her yet.

  6. Dorothy Sherwood Bevard

    June 23, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Anne Dudley Bradstreet is also my 9th great grandmother. I am a life member of The John Winthrop Society.

  7. Kathleen Forsythe Vincent

    June 23, 2014 at 6:00 pm

    my 10th great grandmother too

  8. Loisanne Foster

    June 24, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    Yes, Anne! You made it into American 21st century literature anthologies which is a lot more than most writers of your time accomplished. You have a strong voice. Way to go!

  9. Pingback: How To Be A Good Puritan Mother - New England Historical Society

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