Anne Bradstreet can be considered as one of the first American feminists. Do you agree with this statement? Discuss how she combines Puritan and feminist sensibilities in her poetry.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Even before one looks at Bradstreet's work and examines the potential for feminist sensibilities within it, her role as a writer and thinker would make her symbolic of feminist sentiments.  Bradstreet embodied many qualities that could very well enable her sense of being as consistent with feminist sensibilities.  For example, she was quite learned and a voracious reader. Bradstreet being educated represents feminist qualities because women at the time were  not actively encouraged to embrace the life of scholarship.  Even her own contemporaries criticized her for assuming a professional state of being that was not immediately associated with what it meant to be a women. John Winthrop critiqued Bradstreet's writing, saying that it should be the job of men, "whose minds are stronger.  Other members of the clergy in Puritan society criticized Bradstreet and women writers because of their fundamental challenge to the social constriction of feminine identity.  In this regard, Bradstreet has to be seen as one who possesses feminist sensibilities in what she believed, how she behaved, and the life she led.

In her work, Bradstreet embodied the humility that was intrinsic to Puritan society, but did so without losing her voice as a woman, reflective of feminist qualities.  For example, in "To My Dear and Loving Husband," Bradstreet suggests that "If ever two were one, then surely we."  She embodies the Puritan quality in linking her own life to something larger, in this instance the institution of marriage that was ordained by the divine.  At the same time, one can see a feminist quality in suggesting that marriage is a partnership, predicated upon reciprocity and mutual love and respect.  In writing poems that emphasized the condition of women in a larger scope and context such as "Before the Birth of One of Her Children" and "In Reference to Her Children," it becomes clear that Bradstreet is writing from the voice of a woman, reflective of a woman's experiences.  This confirms her feminist qualities, but is also doing so from a Puritanical frame of reference.  It is in this regard where Bradstreet is a unique talent capable of carrying elements of both worlds in her work and her person.

thewanderlust878 | Student

Anna Bradstreet was a wonderful woman far ahead of her time. She was a fantastic poet and was very intelligent. I do agree that Anne Bradstreet can be considered one of the first "American" feminists (the discussion as to whether or not she was truly American can be discussed at a later time). As a well-read and outspoken woman Anne was considered by most to be much different than the other women of that society. You do not hear of may other women who were poets, writers, etc, from the Puritan age. In her works Anne includes Puritan qualities, for she was a Puritan, but also includes questions of life outside the Puritan world, or she "sneaks in" so to speak her true feelings about women and the treatments they received.

Hope this helps!