Did you know that America’s first poet was a woman named Anne Dudley Bradstreet? She’s been a great inspiration to the poet in me and I wonder if we could have spoken about it. Since we’re separated by about 368 years it would be difficult. But let me tell you about her.
She came to this country from England with her family in 1647 at the age of 17 and had already been married, for two years, to Simon Bradstreet. The four ships they traveled with only took two months to get to New England’s shores and when they arrived it was beyond different. And kind of scary. We were a vast wilderness then and the amenities she was used to were scarce. Still, she bent herself to God’s will, dug in her heels and survived.
She began having children at the age of sixteen and subsequently bore Simon eight of them. Back in the day the edge of the wilderness was at the end of your post and rail fence and it took a lot of inner moxie to keep your wits about you.
The thing is, because her husband was of high position and frequently away, she nearly raised those children herself (well, he must have been there at least eight nights – right?). When she wasn’t caring for them, she was busy fending off disease and hostile neighbors. And have you ever looked at a really old cookbook? They beat their eggs with tied up twigs for crying out loud. Plus they were robins eggs and it took forever to get enough together for an omelet.
In her “spare” time she wrote poetry and did it so well that she had her work published. Okay, her brother back in England published it and it wasn’t considered wonderful but she got a lot better in subsequent years. Probably wrote with goose quills and squid ink, too. She waxed poetic mostly about her husband and children. She called her children her little birds and penned a charming poem about them in 1659 titled “In Reference to Her Children”. In fairness to Simon, records show that he adored her and wrote this about her.
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye woman, if you can.
She was our country’s first poet – an incredible woman. A stained glass window in her honor hangs in St. Botolph’s Church in Boston. That’s her in the picture at top.
I’ll be breaking for Thanksgiving – I’m cooking for 15. I hope yours is blessed, filled with good things, and great love.