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The following information about Anne Dudley Bradstreet is taken from The Works of Anne Bradstreet, edited by Jeannine Hensley, Foreward by Adrienne Rich, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, England, 1967.

By Jeannine Hensley

Anne Bradstreet was born in 1612 in England, the daughter of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke Dudley. Her sixty years of life were devoted to piety and often interrupted by illness. At sixteen she suffered smallpox. Shortly after recovering, she married Simon Bradstreet, whom she had known since childhood. About two years later she and Simon and her parents sailed to Massachusetts on the ship Arbella. The Bradstreets lived in Cambridge (then called Newtown), then moved to Ipswich, and finally to Andover, where Anne spent the rest of her life. Although her first child was not born until several years after her marriage, he was eventually followed by seven others, all but one of whom outlived their mother. Thomas Dudley, her father, became the second governor of the colony, and seven years after her death, which occurred on September 16, 1672, her husband became governor.

Most of what we know about Anne herself we know from her own writings. While much information survives in documents and published works about the Dudley family and about her father and husband and their descendants, direct personal information is sadly lacking in historical sources. There are no portraits of her, and no certain knowledge of her burial place. As to her person we have only her brother-in-law's lines (which are in fact about her poems) that "There needs no painting to that comely face, /That in its native beauty hath such grace." At the very least, it must be assumed that she had not been permanently marked by smallpox, for if she had, the lines would be unnecessarily cruel. If we judge her by her own work, we must discover that her longer, more public works evidence her piety, filial duty, feminism, and interest in and wide reading of history, natural science, and literature; the personal lyrics, along with these public poems, reveal the sincerity of her passion for her husband and her concern for her children. But we also see a charming and very human woman who loves her tables and trunks and chests, allows her sometimes excessive humility to turn into feministic irony, and through her dread of dying in childbirth lets us see that her deeper fear is a jealous one that her husband might remarry.

Although Anne often wrote of the afflictions which God sent to remind her of the things higher than this world, she had a reasonably happy life. We know of her frequent illnesses, the deaths of some of her grandchildren, and her husband's absences "upon Public employment", but we also know that her children fared well and that her husband was one of those rare men who can inspire a woman to passionate poetry. She knew her good fortune and wrote, "Compare with me ye women if you can". Governor Bradstreet's portrait shows an attractive man with long hair and the glow of good living - not a dour ascetic, rather more like a Cavalier than the popular idea of the typical Puritan.

For more information on Anne Bradstreet's poetry, information on volumes published in her lifetime and afterward, critiques of her work and her poetry itself, please see the above referenced book.

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