Anne Bradstreet was a seventeenth-century literary sensation. Her book of poetry The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in the New World was a best-seller on both sides of the Atlantic. Eight years after it first hit bookshelves, it remained one of "the most vendible books in England" alongside works by William Shakespeare and John Milton.
Born in England, she sailed to a new life in North America aboard the Arbella in 1630. She lived with her family in Charlestown, Cambridge, and Ipswich before settling in what is now North Andover in 1646. Her parents and her husband were incredibly supportive of female education in general and Anne's artistic project in particular. Both her husband and her father were governors of Massachusetts, and they were wealthier than most. She grew up reading, and spent her adult years writing.
Her poetry--unlike that of her male contemporaries--often expresses the religious and emotional trials of being a both Puritan woman and writer. Some of her verses directly confront the sexist views of her time: “They’l say my hand a needle better fits”, and, of her own writings, “They’l say it’s stoln, or else it was by chance.” While she was not a revolutionary, she was a woman who recognized and rejected the belief in woman’s intellectual inferiority to man, and actively rebuked that assertion in her writings. The popularity of her work allowed this conviction to be disseminated, a privilege that was not afforded to many sympathizing women of the time.
Bradstreet's legacy as America's first poet continued after her death, but it wasn't until 1912 that interest in her work greatly renewed when several of her poems appeared in Conrad Aiken's Anthology of American Poetry. Since then, she has influenced other American poets such as John Berryman, who published his "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet" in 1953, and her words are immortalized on the Bradstreet Gate at Harvard University: "I came into this country where I found a new world and new manners at which my heart rose."