When the Editor of the Andover 104 Stories asked me to write about Anne Dudley Bradstreet, I knew I had a difficult task before me. So much has been written about her poetry and her life in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, what could I add?
Then, during a moment of inspiration (desperation) I decided to go on a hunt through the Andovers for objects by and about our famous local daughter and poetess.
The first object I found is in Andover, located at the Park on Chestnut Street. By the entrance from the street sits a bench with the following words inscribed:
Anne Dudley Bradstreet, 1612-1672
Early Andover Resident
America's First English Speaking Poet
When I first saw the bench, I wondered how many people have paused at this spot to think about Anne Bradstreet's life and work. We live in the "Valley of the Poets," so dubbed in part because Mistress Bradstreet lived here with her husband Simon Bradstreet from 1646 to 1672.
Anne came to the New World in 1630 during the Great Migration from England. She arrived with her family as a member of Puritan society and became, in her own way, a modern woman.
During her time in Andover, Anne Bradstreet fulfilled the traditional Puritan female role of wife, mother and keeper of hearth and home. Her husband, Simon Bradstreet, was ambitious and politically important in the new colony, spending a great deal of time away from home and leaving Anne to run their homestead.
While certainly busy taking care of household duties, Anne also found time to devote to her writings and poetry. Well educated by her father in the Puritan tradition, Anne could not only read but, unlike most women of the time, she could write. In addition, her father also taught her to compose verse.
These gifts are exemplified in the next object I found on my hunt: an original manuscript in the hand of Anne Bradstreet entitled "Meditations Divine and Morall," now owned by the Trustees of the Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover.