Search on for burial site of America’s first published poet

Published 6:16 am Saturday, March 30, 2019

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. — Anne Bradstreet was the North American continent’s first published poet, yet her legacy has largely been lost to time.

Now, professors and students at Merrimack College in Massachusetts are trying to pinpoint her burial site while at the same time restoring her legacy and what they say is her rightful place in the pantheon of Western literature.

“Even though we don’t know much about her, she was a household name in the 17th century, both here and in England,” said Christy Pottroff, an assistant professor of English at Merrimack.

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Bradstreet’s 1650 book of poetry, “The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America,” was a sensation both in the Colonies and in her native England, where people were fascinated by her accounts of everyday life in the New World.

Pottroff and associate English professor Ellen McWhorter are leading several students in the project, dubbed Finding Anne Bradstreet.

Bradstreet, who died in 1672, was from a prominent family. Her father, Thomas Dudley, served as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She married Simon Bradstreet, who also served as governor.

Because of her family’s prominence and support, she had access to educational opportunities many Puritan women did not.

Most of her writings were about domestic life in the Colonies, her role as a woman and mother of eight, and her devotion to her husband.

“I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold, Or all the riches that the East doth hold,” she wrote in a piece titled, “To My Dear and Loving Husband.”

She also wrote about the horror of watching the family’s home go up in flames.

“Then, coming out, behold a space, The flame consume my dwelling place,” she wrote in “Verses upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th, 1666.”

It was all written through the lens of her Puritan faith.

“She thought poetry was a vehicle for glorifying God,” McWhorter said.