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Wednesday, March 1, 2023

A Short History of Anne Bradstreet

Tracing Anne's life from England to North Andover

Anne’s home once stood near the Parson Barnard House, on the other side of present day Osgood Street. 

Anne Dudley Bradstreet was born to Dorothy Yorke Dudley and Thomas Dudley in 1612 in Northamptonshire, England. Her father was a steward at the estate of the Earl of Lincoln. The estate housed a large library to which Bradstreet was given access. Under her father's guidance and that of many tutors, Anne received a comprehensive literary education. At the age of sixteen, she married Simon Bradstreet.

In 1630, the young couple and the Dudley family embarked for America under the leadership of Puritan John Winthrop. The family settled in Massachusetts Bay. Anne and Simon Bradstreet were among the founding families of Boston and Cambridge.

In the early 1640’s  Anne was pregnant with their 6th child. Simon moved the family from Ipswich to Andover, in what is present day North Andover, with the Stevens, Osgood, Johnson, Farnum, and Barker families, and founds a frontier settlement. During the coming years, Simon was often away from Anne in service to the colony’s government, including Simon serving as governor of the colony. Anne gave birth to eight children between 1633 and 1652.

As she attended to her household duties and raised her children, she also found time to write poetry. Her poetry often focused on the themes of family, morality, salvation, nature, love, and religion.

1650  Her book of poems, The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America was published in England. Bradstreet's poems garnered considerable success and established her as the first American poet. Although Bradstreet was a prolific writer, The Tenth Muse was the only collection of her poetry published during her lifetime.

1666  The Bradstreet home burned down in a fire. Anne and family escaped with their lives, but lost their possessions. including their library of 800+ books. Anne wrote a poem about it. A side note: The Bradstreets had twice as many books in their library as Rev. John Harvard did when, in 1639, he donated his 400 book library to Harvard.

1672  Anne Bradstreet died of consumption (tuberculosis) at age 60. Details of her illnesses and condition at time of death are recorded by her son, Simon. There is no record of where she was buried. However, based on Simon’s note that his mother was buried 3 days after her death, with no other comment, it is most likely she was buried in the Old Burial Ground on Academy Road at North Andover.

1678  A second edition of her poems and writings titled “Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning” was published in Boston – one of the earliest volumes of poems printed in America. 

It's worth nothing that neither of the original editions of her poems had Anne’s name on the cover page. Credits were given to “a Gentlewoman of Those parts” and “a Gentlewoman in New-England”.  

No portrait of Anne Bradstreet exists. This stained glass is in St. Botolph's Church in Boston, Lincolnshire, England and was created in 1948. The picture  of Anne sitting at her desk (above) is from the19th century, by Edmund H. Garrett.

However her journals, written in her own hand, survive. Those journals are the property of the North Andover Historical Society. 

Her poems and writings still speak to us today.

Anne's Poetry:

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