Anne Bradstreet

Ivor Griffiths, Poet, Novelist & Short Story Writer

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Title page, second (posthumous) edition of Bradstreet's poems, 1678
Title page, second (posthumous) edition of Bradstreet's poems, 1678

Anne Bradstreet (ca. 1612 – September 16, 1672) was the first American female writer, and the first American female poet to have her works published.


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Works
  • 3 Descendants
  • 4 Works
  • 5 References
  • 6 External Link


Bradstreet was born as Anne Dudley in Northampton, England most likely in 1612. She was the daughter of Thomas Dudley, a steward of the Earl of Lincoln, and Dorothy Yorke.[1] Due to her family's position she grew up in cultured circumstances. At the age of sixteen she married Simon Bradstreet. Both Anne's father and Anne's husband were later to serve as governors of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Anne and Simon, along with Anne's parents, emigrated to America aboard the Arbella during the "Great Migration" in 1630.[2]

Bradstreet was an unusually well-educated woman for her time, which allowed her to express herself through writing. She wrote about politics, history, medicine, and theology. Her personal library of books was said to have numbered over 800, many of which were destroyed when her home burned down on July 10, 1666. This event itself inspired a poem entitled "Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666", wherein Bradstreet rejects the worldy tragedy which has befallen her family and looks toward God and afterlife as consolation.

She emigrated to Boston in 1630, sailing on the Arbella. 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.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.

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.

By then Anne Bradstreet's health was slowly failing; she had been through many ailments, and was now afflicted with tuberculosis. Shortly after contracting the disease, she lost her daughter Dorothy to illness as well, but her will was strong, and perhaps, as a reflection of her own acceptance of death, she found solace in thinking of her daughter in a better place.

Soon thereafter, Anne Bradstreet's long and difficult battle with illness would be at an end, and she died on September 16, 1672, in Andover, Massachusetts, at the age 60.

Bradstreet died in 1672, in Andover, Massachusetts. While the precise location of her grave is uncertain, she may have been buried next to her husband in "the Old Burying Point" in Salem, Massachusetts, or in "the Old Burying Ground" on Academy Road in North Andover, Massachusetts.


Much of Bradstreet's poetry is based on observation of the world around her, focusing heavily on domestic and religious themes. Long considered primarily of historical interest, she won critical acceptance in the 20th century as a writer of enduring verse, particularly for her sequence of religious poems "Contemplations", which was written for her family and not published until the mid-19th century.[3] Bradstreet's work was deeply influenced by poet Guillaume du Bartas, who was favoured by 17th-century readers.

One of the most interesting aspects of her work is the context in which she wrote; an atmosphere where the search for knowledge was frowned upon as being against God's will, and where women were relegated to traditional roles. Yet, we cannot help but feel the love she had for both God, and her husband, and her intense devotion to both, and to her family, despite the fact that she clearly valued knowledge and intellect, and was a free thinker, who could even be considered an early feminist.

In 1647 Bradstreet's brother-in-law, Rev. John Woodbridge, sailed to England, carrying her manuscript of poetry without her knowledge. Anne's first work was published in London as "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, by a Gentlewoman in such Parts".[2] The purpose of the publication appears to have been an attempt by devout Puritan men (i.e. Thomas Dudley, Simon Bradstreet, John Woodbridge) to show that a godly and educated woman could elevate the position held by a wife and mother, without necessarily placing her in competition with men.

In 1678 her self-revised "Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning" was posthumously published in America, including one of her most famous poems, "To My Dear and Loving Husband".[4]


Descendants of Simon Bradstreet and Anne, daughter of Thomas Dudley:

  • Herbert Hoover[5][6]
  • Wendell Phillip[5][6]
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.[5][6]
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.[5][6]
  • William Ellery Channing[5][6]
  • Richard Henry Dana, Sr.[5][6]
  • Richard Henry Dana, Jr.[5][6]
  • Elisha Williams[5][6]
  • Robert Edwin Seamount
  • David Souter[5]
  • Juliet Winters Carpenter
  • Miles Johnson
  • Steve Young


  • Before the Birth of One of Her Children
  • A Dialogue between Old England and New
  • A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment
  • Another
  • Another (II)
  • For Deliverance From A Fever
  • In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth
  • In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659
  • The Author to Her Book
  • The Flesh and the Spirit
  • The Four Ages of Man
  • The Prologue
  • To Her Father with Some Verses
  • To My Dear and Loving Husband
  • Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno 1632 Aetatis Suae, 19
  • Upon Some Distemper of Body
  • Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666
  1. ^ Anne Bradstreet biography. Retrieved on 2007-01-25.
  2. ^ a b Woodlief, A. (n.d.). Biography of Anne Bradstreet. Retrieved September 1, 2006.
  3. ^ n. a. (2000). Anne (Dudley) Bradstreet. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia. Retrieved Septermber 1, 2006.
  4. ^ Ellis, J. H. (1867). The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i William Addams Reitwiesner Genealogical Services.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h New England Ancestors.

External Link

  • Several Poems of Ann Bradstreet A Celebration of Women Writers
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