Student Feature: Women in American Lit

Anne Bradstreet -- image source:

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Editor’s Note: This post has been written by Katie Esposito, a student in Dr. White’s American Literature class at Lewis University.  Dr. White’s students were to submit one of their public posts for the class to the Jet Fuel Review Blog as an assignment. Katie has provided her post on the role of women in early American literature.

Public Post 2: Women in Early American Literature

Early American literature was mostly dominated by men and the women of the time never imagined that their words could ever compare to a male’s ideas or writings.  However, several women wrote on their own without having the intention of publishing their works someday.  Two significant women in early American literature are Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson, who were both unaware of how compelling and momentous their writings would become.

Bradstreet’s To My Dear Children and Rowlandson’s Captivity Narrative are fascinating narratives that are written so eloquently that cause the reader to relate to the author and feel their pain.  Although both of these women considered their writings inadequate to anything a man could write, their narratives are as superior to men’s writings, if not better.

Religion was a major aspect of early American life and if one were to openly deny their religion, it would be highly unacceptable to society.  However, in To My Dear Children Bradstreet has the courage to tell her children that she had sinned frequently in her life and had sometimes fallen away from God and her religion.  There were not many male writers of the time that would have admitted to disagreeing with the Scriptures or having any doubts in God.  Being a woman, Bradstreet takes a lot of chances in her writings and makes statements that would be highly controversial at the time such as “Many times hath Satan troubled me concerning the verity of the Scriptures, many times by atheism how I could know whether there was a God” ( Bradstreet 113).  Bradstreet, along with many other women during the early American time period, openly admitted that she did not think that her writings would compare to a man’s but that readers should not judge her poems and narratives based on that.  However, I believe that Bradstreet was more brave and showed far more truth in her writings than any other man’s writings that I have read so forth.

Another woman that possessed the gift of writing was Mary Rowlandson.  Unlike Bradstreet, Rowlandson was always fully aware of her faith and believed that God had a plan for her, despite her time in captivity.  Her writings are organized by sections called “removes” which are the multiple journeys with the Native Americans.  Rowlandson’s account for her eleven weeks in captivity is so full of description and personal emotions that it is impossible not to feel compassion for the woman.  What is most interesting about her writings is that despite the death of her child and the separation she has from her family, she stays faithful and writes about God and his plan for her in each remove.  In her narrative she states “The Lord hereby would make us the more acknowledge His hand, and to see that our help is always in him” (Rowlandson 119).  Rowlandson’s continuous belief in God is amazing due to all of the hardships and losses of loved ones that she experienced.  This aspect of her writer is what separates her from a male writer such as Christopher Columbus, who lost his faith after losing things in his life.  Rowlandson never stopped believed in God and used her faith as a mechanism to help her go on and in the end write about her life in captivity.

Men were thought of as more intelligent and the only sex capable of writing significant pieces of literature in early American life.  However, women writers, who believed that they were inadequate were the ones wrote truthful, touching, and highly intelligent pieces of literature.  These women, such as Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson, challenged the norms of their society and wrote narratives and poems that were new and different than that of a man.  While Rowlandson kept her faith throughout her captivity, Bradstreet had the courage to admit in writing that she was not always sure of her own faith.  Women in early American literature were highly underestimated during their existence, but two of the most significant writers in American history today.

— Katie Esposito

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