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Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley in Northhampton, England, in 1612

Anne Dudley Bradstreet was America's first published poet. Cotton Mather described her as: "a gentlewoman whose extraction and estate were considerable." She was an intelligent, well-educated poet, wife, and mother, who contradicted almost all of the stereotypes about stiff, cold Puritans. She used her talents to promote woman’s rights, to describe life as a Puritan woman in colonial America, and to let her husband and children know how much she loved them.

Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley in Northhampton, England, in 1612. She was the first daughter and second of five children born to Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke. Her father was the chief steward of Theophilus Clinton, the Puritan Earl of Lincoln. The entire family lived at Tattershall Castle in Sempringham, Lincolnshire. Anne's childhood was spent in comparative luxury. She was a very inquisitive girl, who was privileged to grow up in a family that supported and encouraged her quest for knowledge. Over the course of 15 years, she received her education (in dancing, music, and languages, among other, more traditional, subjects) from eight tutors and from her father, who loved history, and a strict religious indoctrination. She had unlimited access to the great library of the manor, and satisfied her hunger for knowledge through extensive reading of some of the greatest authors ever known.

Anne’s health problems—which would plague her throughout her life—began when she was young. She was frequently ill, and often bedridden with rheumatic fever. When she was about 14 or 15, she almost dies from smallpox.

In 1628, at the age of 16, Anne married Simon Bradstreet, her father's assistant. Simon was a protégé of the Earl's, nine years her senior, the son of a Puritan minister, and a graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. The couple lived in the household of the countess of Warwick until they emigrated. Their marriage was an exceptionally happy one, and remained so throughout their lives. Anne wrote many poems to her husband, most when he was working far from home for months at a time, describing her love and devotion to him. (London: Stephen Bowtell, 1650)

In 1629, her father and husband joined a group, whose goal was to protect Puritan values and establish their own society in a new land. Anne was unhappy with the idea of giving up all of the benefits of the Earl's manor for what the wilderness of the New World had to offer, but on March 29, 1630, the Dudleys and the Bradstreets immigrated to America, as members of John Winthrop's party. (The first settlers on Massachusetts Bay.) They sailed on the flagship, Arbella, along with ten other ships. Anne writes that the party arrived "in June at the half-dying, famine-ridden frontier village of Salem, after a journey of three month of close quarter, raw nerves, sickness, hysteria and salt meats." Anne eventually overcame her unhappiness with her new home: "I changed my condition and was martyred, and came into this country, where I found a new world and new manners, at which my heart rose. I was convinced it was the way of God; I submitted to it and joined to the church at Boston."

Anne's father became deputy governor (Thomas Dudley was a magistrate at the trial of Anne Hutchinson.) and Simon was an assistant (the secretary of the company from 1630-1636) in the Massachusetts Bay Company for 49 years.

Simon Bradstreet was an assistant and was later elected twice as governor of the colony. The official standing of her father and husband gave Anne a place of dignity and honor in the New World. After a brief residence in Cambridge, the family moved to Ipswich and after 1644 to North Andover, her home for the remainder of her life.

At the age of 18, Anne was humiliated at the fact that she was still not a mother. "It pleased God to keep me a long time without a child, which was a great grief to me." Her grief last only three more years: in 1633, she gave birth to first son, Samuel, was born at Newtowne (Cambridge), just before moving to Ipswich, and he proved to be the first of eight children. The others were Dorothy, Sarah, Simon, Jr., Dudley, Hannah, John and Mercy; all of them lived to maturity.

The bad health that had begun when Anne was young, continued throughout her entire life. She believed her poor health was a trial God was allowing her to go through. Her writings often dealt with her feelings of doubt and renewed faith that this caused: "The first of this month I had a fever seized upon me which indeed was the longest and sorest that ever I had, lasting 4 days, and the weather being very hot made it the more tedious, but it pleased the Lord to support my heart in His goodness, and hear my prayers, and to deliver me out of adversity. But alas! I cannot render unto the Lord according to all His loving kindness, nor take the cup of salvation with thanksgiving as I ought to do. Lord, Thou that knowest all things know'st that I desire to testify my thankfulness not only in word, but in deed, that my conversation may speak that Thy vows are upon me."

Her husband’s frequent absences made these lows all the worse. Simon was often away for months at a time on government business. One time he was sent to England as Massachusetts' envoy to the new king, Charles II, and succeeded in persuading him to confirm the colony's charter. In 1634, Bradstreet was sent with four others to the Plymouth, New Haven, and Connecticut colonies to negotiate the formation of the New England Confederation, and became one of the organization’s two Massachusetts representatives, a post he retained for 33 years. When her husband was away, it was Anne’s faith in God that got her back to good health. "I had a sore fit of fainting, which lasted 2 or 3 days, but not in that extremity which at first it took me, and so much the sorer it was to me because my dear husband was from home (who is my chiefest comforter on earth) but my God, who never failed me, was not absent but helped me…"

In the midst of social obligations, building a new life in a wilderness, caring for eight children, and frequent illness, Anne found time to write poetry. By her own admission, she began her verse-making almost accidentally, writing for her own satisfaction. As was customary of the time, her poems were circulated among family and friends in the new colony. Her family encouraged her writing and circulated it amoungst family and friends with pride. Without her knowledge or consent, her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, took a manuscript collection of poems written before Anne was 13, imitating the leading French Calvinist poet Du Bartas, to London for publication. Her poems were published in 1650 as "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, Or Severall Poems, compiled with great variety of Wit and Learning, full of delight ... By a Gentlewoman in those parts." The book was the first book of original poetry written in colonial America. Woodbridge added the part "by a gentlewoman" to reassure readers that Anne was not neglecting her "wifely duties" by writing. The support of Woodbridge and other members of Anne’s influential family did much to counteract the possibility of public disapproval. The book did not do very well, and Anne hated to see the poems she had written for her family in print.

In 1678, an American edition of "The Tenth Muse…" appeared under the new title "Several Poems Compiled with great variety of Wit and Learning," and included some of her later work. These later poems were her chief claim to fame, because it reflected actual experience (as a wife, as a mother, and a woman in seventeenth-century New England), combined with a poet’s imagination, warmth, and a straight-forward humanity. These additional poems are what made her name. (But it was not until 1867, that an edition was published with Anne’s own corrections.) Anne struggled to write poetry in a society that was hostile to imagination and to a woman writer. Seventeenth century Puritan women were expected to be deferential, and her education and her privileged status as a close relative of two governors could not completely protect her from the scorn and persecution women who stepped out of their role in Puritan society generally received. Some believe that Anne described her work as lowly, meanly clad, poor, ragged, foolish, broken, and blemished to appease critical males. It was the support of her family and friends encouraged her to continue the struggle.

Anne's sole prose work, "Meditations Divine and Moral," was written for her son Simon, and found after her death along with many unpublished poems written to her children. (A fire destroyed her North Andover home in 1666, and it is likely that other unpublished works were destroyed in it.) In "Meditations…" Anne describes her own experience as a Christian to her children, telling them how hardship, sickness, and doubt gradually deepened her faith.

Anne Dudley Bradstreet died on September 16, 1672, in North Andover, Massachusetts of consumption or tuberculosis. No portrait survives and her burial place is not known. She may be buried in the old Burying Ground at North Andover or in her father's tomb at Roxbury, Massachusetts.

It is questionable if Anne Bradstreet influenced other poets, but many have paid homage to her. Anne's influence is certainly seen in Emily Dickenson. Numbered among her illustrious descendants are Richard Henry Dana, William Ellery Channing, Wendell Phillips, and Oliver Wendell Holmes.