Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mistress Bradstreet

I know my interest in the Puritans is bordering on the unhealthy. But let's think about a 400-year-old lady named Anne Bradstreet.

Bradstreet, the bright daughter of an English Puritan leader, sailed in 1630 to the New World of Massachusetts Bay. (She would have scoffed at the Pilgrims, who arrived in New England 10 years earlier, as being fanatics, but a Puritan still she was.) She had three tenets: Love God and contemplate her sinful evilness, as Puritans did. Make her household work despite privation. And be a good wife. (Hey, eight kids.)

What's cool about Bradstreet is that she is the first American poet. She published a book of poetry that was widely read in England, as well as the colonies. She was a hero to many Puritans (her poetry was religious), but it also blew away everybody with its quality. It was big-time smart! She somehow clued in men that a God-ordained woman's frailty of mind and body, her female weakness, could be sidestepped. She could even make men think!

As Charlotte Gordon, author of a recent biography of Bradstreet, "Mistress Bradstreet," quoted in her introduction, Anne Bradstreet wrote:"I am obnoxious / to any carping tongue / who says my hand a needle better fits."

I can enjoy that.

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