Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Hi everyone! This is the first post I am doing for my Currents in American Lit class, and today I wanted to quickly introduce you to the gloriousness that is Anne Bradstreet.

Now, here's the deal: Anne Bradstreet is considered to be the first female author published in the New World, and that feat in itself is impressive. Which is kind of sad, because the fact that it is impressive speaks to the position of women during this time period and even more specifically (and especially) in the Puritan society that Bradstreet resided in. The surprise that follows the publication of Anne's work The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America is best summarized by her brother in law, John Woodbridge, as he writes in his prologue:

"The worst effect of his [the reader’s] reading will be unbelief, which will make him question whether it be a woman’s work, and ask, is it possible?"

This is exactly the point where Bradstreet's subtle feminism comes into play. Forget bra burning in the 60's, because this wonderful woman dethroned the patriarchy with her understated poetry and I'm not even quite sure she knew the power in her own words.

In her poem "Prologue", Anne addresses those who question her abilities as a writer, and in turn her womanliness:

"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 wont advance-
They'll say it was stolen, or else it was by chance."

To me this verse screams, "Hey men, I know you don't like me and you think I should stick to my womanly duties but screw you because I'm just as capable as you!" Her mocking tone and sarcastic rhetoric is somewhat hidden underneath her coy jabs at male views on women. 

Personally, I believe that Bradstreet's  In Honour Of The High And Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth is the most overtly feminist poem in the collection. In a world where men are consistently and simultaneously the author and the reader, Bradstreet turned this notion on its head by dedicating a poem to Queen Elizabeth who, "was so good, so just, so learn'd, so wise, from all the kings on earth she won the prize". To praise a queen rather than a king could be considered treason in the eyes of men, so in doing so Bradstreet may be considered the first American feminist. The most intriguing part of Bradstreet's ode to Elizabeth can be found in the second epitaph at the conclusion of the poem. Here, Elizabeth is referred to as an "unparallel'd prince", which leads to the question: Why use a highly gender specific (ie male) term to refer to a powerful woman? Is it because she is trying to appeal to her male readers, perhaps making Elizabeth more manly and therefore more fit to rule in the eyes of men? Or is it because Anne Bradstreet is attempting to shake society to its core by stating that a woman can do just as good of a job, maybe even a superior job, when it comes to ruling than a man? Gasp!

With all things considered, Ms. Bradstreet was surely onto something with these poems of hers. Whether she was aware or not of the effects her work would have on society and how women were viewed within it, who knows. But regardless, Anne Bradstreet's radical poetry paved the way for female voices in the New World and that in itself is a contribution to be proud of.

until next time,


1 comment:

  1. This one tiny point actually made me think differently about the whole poem: "In a world where men are consistently and simultaneously the author and the reader, Bradstreet turned this notion on its head by dedicating a poem to Queen Elizabeth." I never really thought about the poem as an address to the queen in some ways, and that this is radical not just because she becomes a subject, but because she becomes the reader... Very cool... Nice post!


site design by designer blogs