Despite the prominence of both her father and her husband in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, facts about Anne Bradstreet are scarce, and her poems are the major source of biographical information. She was born Anne Dudley in Northampton, England, probably in 1612. From the age of seven, she lived in the household of the earl of Lincoln, whom her father served as a steward for more than a decade. As the child of a Puritan family, she became conscious of sinfulness early in life. Her physical health suffered. She regarded smallpox, which afflicted her at age sixteen, as a punishment for her “carnal” desires. In 1628, she was married to Simon Bradstreet. Two years later, the Bradstreet and Dudley families sailed to the New World on the Arbella along with John Winthrop and the original Massachusetts Bay colonists.
In the New World, the Bradstreets lived in several places before settling permanently in Merrimac (now Andover). Both her father and husband assumed leadership roles in the colony from the start. The former remained politically active into his seventies, serving four one-year terms as governor between 1634 and 1650 as well as thirteen terms as deputy governor. Her even more durable husband began as secretary of the colony, served thirty-three years as a commissioner of the New England Confederation, and in his seventies and eighties served as governor. He was also interested in frontier trading, and his frequent absences from home became the subject of two of his wife’s best poems.
For some years after her marriage, Bradstreet continued to suffer from poor health and the added humiliation of not being able to bear Simon any children. It is not clear when she began writing poetry, but by the late 1640’s...
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