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A Patriarcial Kickdown- The Inspiring Story of Anne Bradstreet

Blakley has been interested in poetry since they first learned to read, taking song lyrics and analyzing them even before writing themself.

A portrayal of Anne Bradstreet sitting with her notebook and thoughts.

A portrayal of Anne Bradstreet sitting with her notebook and thoughts.

Anne Bradstreet? Who's That?

Picture this: You are a twenty-year-old woman living in a highly religious society, whereas you aren't even supposed to know how to write as a female. Your mind is creative, though, so your father teaches you under the table, and suddenly you become literate in a time when this was illegal. Writing poetry anytime you get the chance, but hidden from view because your society would punish your family members if your passion was discovered; thus, your works find their place tucked away by dim candlelight. Such was Anne Bradstreet, a fifteenth-century American poet who wrote vigorously despite the lack of support from her community. She defied the odds and went against the sexist rules of her society to become the first published poet from the British colonies, making her mark on American and world history. Though her own merits may not have facilitated this, hers is still an astounding feat that historians, feminists, and poets alike have looked to and idolized as an essential piece of history.

History in the Making

Before we go into more, we should probably touch back on how her life as an (initially) secret poet began...

Things in the British colony of North America were not grand, to say the least, it was a difficult life, and most individuals were trying to get by. Moving to the Massachusetts Bay colony from Britain in her teenage years, we see a slinging of Bradstreet into a life much different from the previous one (which we can assume was lavish) back where she grew up. One constant, though, was that she was always a writer. Her father, Thomas Dudley, a nonconforming public official, taught her much more than what she was supposed to know. This led her into a writing life in a society where it was much frowned upon, and where she had to keep such hidden from many individuals out of fear. This did not stop Bradstreet from doing what she loved, though, but simply put her in the position to write in secret so she wouldn't become discovered.

This was until 1650, when her brother brought her works to England and had them published, releasing them to the public eye for all to see. To many in the twenty-first century, this may seem like a dream come true, but to a Puritan woman in the sixteen-hundreds, this could have ended her relationship with her community or worse. That is why many prominent individuals today view her as a rebel for even writing at all because she could have easily been ostracized from society simply based on the fact she produced poetry as a female. It may not seem like much, but at the time it was highly risque, thus reasoning our need for a spotlight on such a pioneer.

Religious Opposition

From her works, we can tell that Bradstreet was an esteemed author, not to mention how much she adored the art. Especially prevalent in poems such as "Upon the Burning of our House," a reader can understand exactly how much poetry meant to her and how it helped her process her emotions. Furthermore, she also appeared not to care about what other people in society thought about what her poetry had to say. Incorporating personal topics and ideologies that were viewed as taboo in Puritan culture, it is evident she loved her work more than anyone who might criticize it. But if she loved what she did, why did it take her brother going to England for her work to become publicized?

This, my friends, is where we can turn to another famous poem of hers: "The Authur to Her Book." Covering how she felt after her works were published, we see feelings of violation and fear represented throughout the piece. With the figurative language, we can understand how Puritan society made her afraid and ashamed of the poetry she created, exposing why she was reluctant to present it to the world. Though Bradstreet obviously had feelings for her work and often expressed an intimate relationship with such, she was afraid of what society might do if they found out she partook in such activities. Considering at this time it was explicitly unacceptable for female Puritans to become writers, honestly, can she be blamed?

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Due to this, much of her work was published post-humorously, following quite far behind her death in 1672. Even then, people in Puritan culture would have preferred it stay quiet, but Bradstreet had a lot to say, and it would not stay "under the rug" for long. Her works reached a significant height of popularity with the feminist movements of the twentieth century, where poets and scholars began to look to her career as a sign of independence and rebellion from societal norms.

Her Relevance Still Today

In high school, in particular, many are given pieces of her poetry to work with and get the opportunity to learn about who she was and why she is important. In this educational setting, not only are they presented with poetry, but they have the space actually to break it down and understand the story behind such. In analyzing these works, students can better comprehend the Puritan culture in which she lived and how it influenced the way she wrote and the topics she touched upon, thus incorporating two valuable lessons into one place. Furthermore, it also brings insight into how society viewed women at the time, shining a light on something many students might not have understood previously. Therefore, as both a pioneer in poetry and a feministic rebel, Anne Bradstreet's relevance is apparent centuries after her debut.

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