Sylvia Plath began her life in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts on October 27, 1932. In Sylvia’s childhood, her father, Otto, died after an untreated case of diabetes. His suffering and prolonged illness scared the young Sylvia and heavily influenced her views of men in her life. Her distorted perception of the roles of men and women became the force behind her work, and later, the cause of her demise. 

Sylvia was an excellent student, and was accepted to Smith College on a scholarship in 1950. She tried to appear happy outwardly, but her reality was depression and thoughts of suicide. She was institutionalized after an attempted suicide in 1953 at Maclean Hospital. In 1955, Sylvia attended Newnham College at Cambridge University on a Fulbright scholarship. There she met Ted Hughes at a party in February 1956. They were married four months later in London. Soon after their honeymoon in Spain, Sylvia took a teaching position at Smith College, where she had studied a few years before. After a year of failure, in Sylvia’s view, she began to secretly see her therapist from her hospitalization at Maclean, Ruth Boucher. 

In 1959, Sylvia and Ted returned to England, as Sylvia was pregnant and due to give birth the following spring. During her pregnancy, she went under contract with William Heinemann Ltd. to publish The Colossus. A miscarriage the next year worsened Sylvia’s depression. In August 1961, the little family moved to a Devon farm, further isolating Sylvia, especially from Ted. Their second child, a son, was born in January of 1962. In July of that year, Sylvia discovered Ted’s affair with Assia Wevill. In September, Sylvia and Ted separated. By December, Sylvia and the children had moved into an apartment at 23 Fitzroy Road, the former home of William Butler Yeats. The Bell Jar was published under the pseudonym of Victoria Lucas in 1963. Then, on February 11, 1963, Sylvia committed suicide, killing herself by putting her head in a gas oven.

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In the late 1620s, a young Englishwoman sailed for America with her parents and husband. They landed at the Massachusetts Bay Colony, America’s Puritan settlement. Through her struggle with her new life straining to build a home and raise a family in a new country, Anne Bradstreet emerged as the New World’s first female poet. 

Puritan doctrine repressed those who followed it, leading to a cultural bias toward women, as well as the belief that a woman’s proper place was at home with her children. Women of this time were considered intellectual inferiors, even outside the Puritan religion. Puritan Law dictated love between spouses must also be repressed, so as not to distract from their devotion to God. Bradstreet’s first book, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, was published without her knowledge by her brother-in-law in 1650... Critics of the time accused Bradstreet of stealing her ideas for poems from men. Many thought she was neglecting her duties as a Puritan woman by writing. In attempt to dispel rumors to that effect, her brother-in-law added “By a Gentle Woman in Those Parts,” to the title page. This was meant to affirm she did not shirk her home and wifely duties to write. Bradstreet shows her anger for these criticisms in The Prologue: 

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue 
Who says my hand a needle better fits; 
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits.
If what I do prove well, it won't advance;
They'll say it's stol'n, or else it was by chance. 

I can relate to some of Bradstreet’s work, as a wife and mother myself, though the Puritan beliefs are far removed from my own. Bradstreet was not afraid to show her emotions, though it was not condoned in her religion. As a Puritan woman, she tended to stay within the socially acceptable topics such as her husband, her children, and God. One of the poems in her first book To My Dear and Loving Husband shows her style quite well:

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