Anne Bradstreet led a rich, inspirational life, but she may not even be a North Andover legend had it not been for a guy rummaging through her notes and taking them without permission,
It's pretty well known that America's first published female poet was none other than North Andover's own Anne Bradstreet. But she actually got that fame because a man rifled through her things.
Bradstreet was the daughter of Thomas Dudley, an early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She married Simon Bradstreet when she was 16, and when she was 18, she and her family moved from Engalnd to Massachusetts.
Bradstreet was very educated compared to most other women in her time, a privilege from being raised in and married into prestige. Her husband, like her father, would also serve as a Massachusetts governor. Her sister would marry Rev. John Woodbridge, who would lead them in founding Andover (now North Andover).
The Bradstreets moved around a lot. After living in Salem and then Cambridge and starting a family (she would eventually have eight children), Anne and her husband moved to Ipswich and then again to the new Andover Parish in the 1640s. Anne didn't want to move to the new settlement, but she went anyway. Her life was full of obstacles despite her privilege -- she battled small pox and later paralysys -- and she managed to adapt to life in what is now North Andover. Even after their North Andover home burned down, leaving them with no personal belongings, the Bradstreets bounced back and prospered again.
Through her ever-changing life, poetry was Anne Bradstreet's constant. Her husband was often gone for long periods of time, traveling on political business to the other colonies. Without much else to do in colonial Massachusetts, Anne sated her loneliness with books. She read about history, science, medicine and the arts. And she nurtured her love of poetry, both reading it and writing it.
But Anne kept her writing private. In those days, it was considered inappropriate for a woman to be as educated as Anne was, and even more inappropriate to write and express her views and creativity. Women were sometimes exiled for it. So she kept her poems to herself and her inner circle of friends and family, never intending for the world to read them.
However, her brother-in-law Rev. John Woodbridge, ever the nonconformist and impressed with her work, secretly copied her poems and brought them with him on a trip back to England. He had them published there in 1650, without her permission, in a book titled "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts." This made her the first female poet published in Engand as well as America. The book was popular in England, but Anne would not publish anything else in her lifetime. The rest of her works would be published after she died of tuberculosis 12 years later.
One book published after her death wasa collection of poems titled "Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of With and Learning." That book, which is kept at Harvard and is owned by North Andover's Stevens Memorial Library, includes her most famous poem, "To My Dear and Loving Husband."
"If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can."
-- Anne Bradstreet, "To My Dear and Loving Husband."
About this column:A glimpse at North Andover's history.