Anne Bradstreet Is the First American Poet to Be Published

One of the major challenges of the colonial experience was gender roles in an evolving society. A woman’s role was to maintain household order, to encourage faith and instill good moral values in her children, and to be subordinate and submissive to men. Women were thought to be incapable and treated unequal to the task of writing. These four texts reveal traditional Puritan women’s roles, how female authors challenged gender roles, and display women’s abilities in their creative endeavors in Colonial America.

Anne Bradstreet is the first American poet to be published of either gender. Bradstreet could be considered an early feminist, and she exhibits this in her poems. In “The Prologue” Anne Bradstreet focuses on the gender constraints women faced in a Puritanical society. Bradstreet says that she is, “Obnoxious to each carping tongue/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” (189).

Bradstreet criticized the Puritans with a sardonic wit. She disagrees with the traditional and stereotypical gender roles cast upon women. She also says, “Men can do best, and women know it well/preeminence in all and each is yours” (189). Bradstreet is cautious not to take away from male poets. She acknowledges that men and women play different roles, but she does believe that women can also write poetry and should not be chastised for it. She understands what men thought about women writing, so she made a careful presentation of herself as a female poet.

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This tactic helped her get her point across while making men who criticize her feel less threatened by her abilities. Her ultimate goal with this poem is for female writers to be accepted in society.

The next poem that challenges gender roles is “The Author to Her book” by Anne Bradstreet, and it is a conceit. A conceit is an intricate, extended poetic metaphor that compares two unlike things in an interesting and clever way. Bradstreet uses motherhood as a metaphor in this poem. She compares the author to a mother and the book to her child. This poem concerns Bradstreet’s feelings about the publication of her poems without her acknowledgement or permission.

Bradstreet describes the book of poems as “ill-form’d” (Bradstreet 199). Compared to a protective mother, she worries that her child or book in this case was not ready for its independence because she was unable to perfect it to her liking. When the volume is first published, she describes it as “irksome in my sight” because she cannot ignore the flaws that she did not have the opportunity to fix (Bradstreet 199). She wanted to present her poems in their best form, but that is impossible. Bradstreet’s worrying about the acceptance of the book amongst people reflects the Puritan attitude towards women pursuing male dominated activities or careers. Despite the book’s imperfections, the poet cannot help but adore the book because it is her creation. At the conclusion of the poem, Bradstreet comes to terms with her work being viewable to the world. Not only does she take responsibility for her work as a female poet in Colonial America, but she demonstrates that poetry is something that women can do as well.

The next text that challenges gender roles in the 17th century is titled “Huswifery” by Edward Taylor. Huswifery can be defined as a housekeeping or a housewife’s labor in the domestic sphere. This poem references to a more skilled housework such as textile production that involves spinning and weaving, a task specifically assigned to women. In Taylor’s conceit, he compares a housewife’s work to the ways he would like to be used by God, and he expresses his longing to become closer to God. Using the title “Huswifery” as a metaphor for God’s masculine work implies that women’s work is important. As a minister, Taylor greatly humbles himself by asking God to use him as a housewife would use an ordinary, everyday object. His extended metaphor knows no such gender restrictions.

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Anne Bradstreet Is the First American Poet to Be Published. (2022, Apr 21). Retrieved from

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