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Anne Bradstreet

Educated by her father in the classical tradition, focusing on history, literature, and philosophy, Anne Bradstreet emigrated to America in 1630 on the Arbella and had a difficult time adjusting to the New World.

She married her father’s assistant, John Bradstreet, and raised eight children. She wrote poetry in her “spare” time, focusing on what she considered to be the beautiful variety in God's creation. While she was conflicted with her vocation as a poet initially, she later embraced it. Her legacy is significant - she was the first American poet.
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Themes and Facts

  • Poetry contains tension between “flesh” and “spirit.”
  • A major theme in her work is her love and devotion to family, particularly her husband John.
  • Though a woman of sincere belief, her writing also discusses the tension between faith and doubt.
  • She balances a strong faith with an appreciation for the things of this world.
  • Explicitly discusses the limitations women face in writing (e.g. "The Prologue").
  • Her poetry also contains a wry, skillful (and hence ironic) self-deprecation.

Study Questions

  • How does Bradstreet's poetry reflect traditional Puritan theology? Where else do you see her question or challenge such beliefs? Is there necessarily any contradiction between her faith and doubt?
  • How does Bradstreet defend her vocation as a poet? What was her motivation to downplay her poetic gifts?
  • What recurring images or themes do you find in Bradstreet's poetry? What balance do you find between the spiritual and the physical? What does her poetry tell us about the vocation of motherhood and marriage in Puritan families?

Ahead of her time, the poetry of Anne Bradstreet explores the full depth of theological, spiritual truths, marital love, and worldly treasures.