Anne Bradstreet was an upper class woman. This meant she had many privileges and abilities that most female individuals of her time did not have. I picked this question because I was curious to know the lifestyle and education of the average women of this time in Europe. I wanted to know what background set her up for her success.
Anne Bradstreet was born in 1612, in Northhampton, England. She was born Anne Dudley. She was the daughter of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke. During this time most women were educated very little if at all. Anne did not attend an actual school, however she was privileged enough to receive her education from eight different tutors. Her father, Thomas Dudley, was always more than willing to teach her something new; ergo he also heavily contributed to her excellent education. She was an extremely curious pupil whom liked to feed her hunger for knowledge through her continuous reading of the greatest authors ever known up to then. Luckily her father’s occupation was the steward of the Earl of Lincoln estate, which gave Anne unlimited access to the immense library of the manor.
Bradstreet’s childhood was very luxurious compared to most. Her father was the chief steward for Theophilus Clinton, the Puritan Earl of Lincoln. Her father (who loved history) encouraged her in her studies. She probably read the works of William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Du Bartas, Cervantes, and many others. http://classiclit.about.com/cs/profileswriters/p/aa_abradstreet.htm
Attributes of women during the early 17th century:
-Women wore simple basic clothing similar to tunics, they were considered housewives and they spent their days doing house work and farming.
– Caucasian women during the early 1600s did have the privilege of learning basic reading and writing skills. Sadly though, few women continued past this basic learning and most were actually discouraged to achieve education.
-After achieving a basic education, women learned and practiced to become mothers and house wives.
-Women did not have an influence in politics or legal issues of the day. They did not have a say in government policies either.
-In essence, women did not have a say in anything men felt women should not be involved in.
-Women had no right to own a business and could not hold any of the property once married
-Women could not get a divorce.
-If a woman was divorced, she would be stripped of all real-estate property and would be looked down upon by society.
There was a good deal of uncertainty about women’s education in the early seventeenth century. Protestant leaders believed that women as well as men of all classes should at least be able to read the Bible, and some religious literature. Women in the upper class were taught to read and often to write in English, and also they often studied French, needlework, a small amount of geography, music, and dancing, but the classical languages or other serious studies were commonly thought to be not only unnecessary but very likely harmful to a woman’s weaker mind and to her marriage prospects.
A prime example of what happens to a woman who steps outside of her gender’s boundaries in the 1600s can be found in the case of Anne Hutchinson. The following is a brief biography of her from http://m.search.eb.com/topic/277653
“Anne Marbury was the daughter of a silenced clergyman and grew up in an atmosphere of learning. She married William Hutchinson, a merchant, in 1612, and in 1634 they migrated to Massachusetts Bay Colony. Anne Hutchinson soon organized weekly meetings of Boston women to discuss recent sermons and to give expression to her own theological views. Before long her sessions attracted ministers and magistrates as well. She stressed the individual’s intuition as a means of reaching God and salvation, rather than the observance of institutionalized beliefs and the precepts of ministers. Her opponents accused her of antinomianism—the view that God’s grace has freed the Christian from the need to observe established moral precepts.
Hutchinson’s criticism of the Massachusetts Puritans for what she considered to be their narrowly legalistic concept of morality and her protests against the authority of the clergy were at first widely supported by Bostonians. John Winthrop, however, opposed her, and she lost much of her support after he won election as governor. She was tried by the General Court chiefly for “traducing the ministers,” was convicted in 1637, and was sentenced to banishment. For a time in 1637–38 she was held in custody at the house of Joseph Weld, marshal of Roxbury, Massachusetts. Refusing to recant, she was then tried before the Boston Church and formally excommunicated.
With some of her followers Hutchinson established a settlement (now Portsmouth) on the island of Aquidneck (now part of Rhode Island) in 1638. After the death of her husband in 1642, she settled on Long Island Sound, near present Pelham Bay, New York. In 1643 she and all her servants and children save one were killed by Indians, an event regarded by some in Massachusetts as a manifestation of divine judgment.”
This woman was persecuted and banished for speaking out about her religious views and opinions. Women of the 17th century were supposed to know their place.They were supposed to cook, clean, and raise children, not too speak out against male authority. This was an interesting story I felt necessary to share to understand how women of the time were viewed as lesser beings in society.
After researching this subject I learned that Anne Bradstreet was a very exceptional women, but only managed to accomplish what she did by the good fortunes of having a wealthy upper class background and tutors and a father who cared for and contributed to her education greatly. Most women of this time were lucky to be very literate much less be well educated like Anne. I am proud to live in a time and country where the education of all people is available and encouraged.