Anne Bradstreet

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Anne Bradstreet's poetry combines Puritan and feminist sensibilities

Summary:

Anne Bradstreet's poetry blends Puritan and feminist sensibilities by reflecting her deep religious faith while also expressing her personal struggles and the challenges faced by women. Her work often highlights the tension between her devotion to Puritan values and her desire for intellectual and creative freedom, showcasing her unique perspective as a woman in a male-dominated society.

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Do you agree Anne Bradstreet combines Puritan and feminist sensibilities in her poetry?

As a devout Puritan, Anne Bradstreet believed that she had an individual and direct connection to God, just like any other individual. She would not have believed that she was lesser in God's eyes than any other man or woman; in that sense, then, she believed in the equality of the sexes. In her poem "Deliverance from a Fit of Fainting," we see this belief in her personal importance to God, regardless of her sex. She recognizes her own weakness as a human being (it is not linked to her sex), and she interprets a faint as being like a small death. However, she believes that God "revive[d]" her "feeble spirit" and "as dead mad'st [her] alive" so that she could go on to live a while longer and glorify God. She praises God for restoring her to life, for ministering to her directly, as though confirming her importance. Bradstreet's work acknowledges her human weakness—not female weakness—as well as her own importance and connection to God (which would have been the most important relationship in her life); she is the equal of all others.

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Do you agree Anne Bradstreet combines Puritan and feminist sensibilities in her poetry?

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.

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Are there any feminist elements in Anne Bradstreet's works?

The main element of feminism in Anne Bradstreet's poetry is the fact that she dared to write it at all! In her time, a time influenced by deep and profound Puritan beliefs and limitations, a woman's place was very much in the home as a housewife, mother to her children and support to her husband,taking her intellectual lead and angle from him. Men were seen to think and to write, but women were expected to keep their intellectual thoughts inside the privacy of their own kitchen. It is a great wonder and credit that her male friends thought well enough of her to get her book home and published. She has fine and reasoned ideas, but is careful to couch them in domestic/relationship settings--yet look beyond the happy kitchen scenes and you will see the strong themes of conscience,dissent and conflict running through.

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