Anne and her family emigrated to America in 1630 on the Arabella, one of the first ships to bring Puritans to New England in hopes of setting up plantation colonies. The journey was difficult; many perished during the three month journey, unable to cope with the harsh climate and poor living conditions, as sea squalls rocked the vessel, and scurvy brought on by malnutrition claimed their lives. Anne, who was a well educated girl, tutored in history, several languages and literature, was ill prepared for such rigorous travel, and would find the journey very difficult.
Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) is one of the most important figures in the history of American Literature. She is considered by many to be the first American poet, and her first collection of poems, "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts", doesn't contain any of her best known poems, it was the first book written by a woman to be published in the United States. Mrs. Bradstreet's work also serves as a document of the struggles of a Puritan wife against the hardships of New England colonial life, and in some way is a testament to plight of the women of the age. Anne's life was a constant struggle, from her difficult adaptation to the rigors of the new land, to her constant battle with illness.
It is clear to see that Anne's faith was exemplary, and so was her love for children and her husband, Governor Simon Bradstreet. Anne's poems were written mainly during the long periods of loneliness while Simon was away on political errands. Anne, who was a well educated woman, also spent much time with her children, reading to them and teaching them as her father had taught her when she was young. While it is rather easy for us to view Puritan ideology in a bad light because of it's attitude towards women and strict moral code, her indifference to material wealth, her humility and her spirituality, regardless of religion, made her into a positive, inspirational role model for any of us.
Another one of Anne's most important qualities was her strong intuition, although only subtly hinted at in her work, probably for fear of reprisal from the deeply religious Puritan community, one cannot help but feel her constant fascination with the human mind, and spirit, and inner guidance.
Her style is deceptively simple, yet speaks of a woman of high intelligence and ideals who was very much in love, and had unconditional faith. While it was difficult for women to air their views in the 17th Century, Anne Bradstreet did so with ease, as her rich vocabulary and polyvalent knowledge brought a lyrical, yet logical quality to her work which made it pleasant for anyone to read.
This website is intended as a homage to Mrs. Bradstreet and her work, and we have included several of her best poems, and her most famous quotes, in what we hope will be an enlightening, and entertaining experience, and will give some insight into the life of America's first woman poet.
Anne Bradstreet was born in Northampton, England, in the year 1612, daughter of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke; Dudley, who had been a leader of volunteer soldiers in the English Reformation and Elizabethan Settlement, was then a steward to the Earl of Lincoln; Dorothy was a gentlewoman of noble heritage and she was also well educated.
At the age of 16, Anne was married to Simon Bradstreet, a 25 year old assistant in the Massachusetts Bay Company and the son of a Puritan minister, who had been in the care of the Dudleys since the death of his father.
Their trials and tribulations did not end upon their arrival, though, and many of those who had survived the journey, either died shortly thereafter, or elected to return to England, deciding they had suffered through enough. Thomas Dudley and his friend John Winthrop made up the Boston settlement's government; Winthrop was Governor, Dudley Deputy-Governor and Bradstreet Chief-Administrator.
The colonists' fight for survival had become daily routine, and the climate, lack of food, and primitive living arrangements made it very difficult for Anne to adapt. She turned inwards and let her faith and imagination guide her through the most difficult moments; images of better days back in England, and the belief that God had not abandoned them helped her survive the hardships of the colony.
Having previously been afflicted with smallpox, Anne would once again fall prey to illness as paralysis took over her joints; surprisingly, she did not let her predicament dim her passion for living, and she and her husband managed to make a home for themselves, and raise a family. Despite her poor health, she had eight children, and loved them dearly. Simon eventually came to prosper in the new land, and for a while it seemed things would not be so bad.
Tragedy struck once more, when one night the Bradstreet home was engulfed in flames; a devastating fire which left the family homeless and devoid of personal belongings. It did not take too long for them to get back on their feet, thanks to their hard work, and to Simon's social standing in the community.
While Anne and her husband were very much in love, Simon's political duties kept him traveling to various colonies on diplomatic errands, so Anne would spend her lonely days and nights reading from her father's vast collection of books, and educating her children. The reading would not only keep her from being lonely, but she also learned a great deal about religion, science, history, the arts, and medicine; most of all, reading helped her cope with life in New England.