Anne Bradstreet and Phyllis Wheatley: Pioneers for Women’s Rights
Anne Bradstreet (1600’s) and Phyllis Wheatley (1700’s) wrote poetry in two different centuries. Their topics, themes and the risks these women took in their writings are groundbreaking in that they paved the way for women’s rights today. Both women are known as the first published poets of the new world. Bradstreet’s writings were first published in 1650 and her poetry included controversial subjects such as the relationship between a husband and wife, displays of affection, and women who have made their place in society as leaders. These topics were not typical of women who were brought up a Puritans. In fact, the puritans did not approve of public displays of affection. They also believed that talking about intimate relationships between a man and his wife was sinful. When Anne Bradstreet wrote her “Prologue”, she knew she would face criticism for her writings. Her lines:
“I am obnoxious to each
Who says my hand a needle better fits,
A poet’s pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits:
If what I do prove well, it won’ advance,
They’ll say it’s stol’n, or else it was by chance.”
She was aware that many people would disapprove of her writings, she was also very keen to the fact that she knew what women’s roles were in society, yet she wrote what she felt were important topics anyway.
Phyllis Wheatley’s subjects were also questionable at the time of her writings. Wheatley’s first publications were in 1773. Wheatley, being a slave, wrote about the subjects of slavery, religion, and freedom. Society considered these subjects as controversial for women to speak about and Wheatley took a big risk each time she addressed the topics in her poetry.