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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01/05/2011 19:14

A lazy youth, a lousy age.


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