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Biography

Anne Bradstreet was born in Northampton, England, in the year 1612, daughter of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke;  Dudley, who had been a leader of volunteer soldiers in the English Reformation and Elizabethan Settlement, was then a steward to the Earl of Lincoln;  Dorothy was a gentlewoman of noble heritage and she was also well educated.

At the age of 16, Anne was married to Simon Bradstreet, a 25 year old assistant in the Massachusetts Bay Company and the son of a Puritan  minister, who had been in the care of the Dudleys since the death of his father.

Anne and her family emigrated to America in 1630 on the Arabella, one of the first ships to bring Puritans to New England in hopes of setting up plantation colonies. The journey was difficult; many perished during the three month journey, unable to cope with the harsh climate and poor living conditions, as sea squalls rocked the vessel, and scurvy brought on by malnutrition claimed their lives.  Anne, who was a well educated girl, tutored in history, several  languages and literature, was ill prepared for such rigorous travel, and would find the journey very difficult.

 

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Dawn Chase
Montague Dawson
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Their trials and tribulations did not end upon their arrival, though, and many of those who had survived the journey, either died shortly thereafter, or elected to return to England, deciding they had suffered through enough.  Thomas Dudley and his friend John Winthrop made up the Boston settlement's government;  Winthrop was Governor, Dudley Deputy-Governor and Bradstreet Chief-Administrator. 

The colonists' fight for survival had become daily routine, and the climate, lack of food, and primitive living arrangements made it very difficult for Anne to adapt.  She turned inwards and let her faith and imagination guide her through the most difficult  moments; images of better days back in England,  and the belief that God had not abandoned them helped her survive the hardships of the colony. 

Having previously been afflicted with smallpox, Anne would once again fall prey to illness as paralysis took over her joints; surprisingly, she did not let her predicament dim her passion for living, and she and her husband managed to make a home for themselves, and raise a family.  Despite her poor health, she had eight children, and loved them dearly.  Simon eventually came to prosper in the new land, and for a while it seemed things would not be so bad.

Tragedy struck once more, when one night the Bradstreet home was engulfed in flames; a devastating fire which left the family homeless and devoid of personal belongings.  It did not take too long for them to get back on their feet, thanks to their hard work, and to Simon's social standing in the community.

While Anne and her husband were very much in love, Simon's political duties kept him traveling to various colonies on diplomatic errands, so Anne would spend her lonely days and nights reading from her father's vast collection of books, and educating her children.  The reading would not only keep her from being lonely, but she also learned a great deal about religion, science, history, the arts, and medicine; most of all, reading helped her cope with life in New England.

Continued...

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