Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley in 1612 in Northamptonshire, England. She married Simon Bradstreet, a graduate of Cambridge University, at the age of 16. Two years later, Bradstreet, along with her husband and parents, emigrated to America with the Winthrop Puritan group, and the family settled in Ipswich, Massachusetts. There Bradstreet and her husband raised eight children, and she became one of the first poets to write English verse in the American colonies. It was during this time that Bradstreet penned many of the poems that would be taken to England by her brother-in-law, purportedly without her knowledge, and published in 1650 under the title The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America.
Tenth Muse was the only collection of Bradstreet's poetry to appear during her lifetime. In 1644, the family moved to Andover, Massachusetts, where Bradstreet lived until her death in 1672. In 1678, the first American edition of Tenth Muse was published posthumously and expanded as Several Poems Compiled with Great Wit and Learning. Bradstreet's most highly regarded work, a sequence of religious poems entitled Contemplations, was not published until the middle of the nineteenth century.
Bradstreet's poetics belong to the Elizabethan literary tradition that includes Spenser and Sidney; she was also strongly influenced by the sixteenth century French poet Guillaume du Bartas. Her early work, which is imitative and conventional in both form and content, is largely unremarkable, and her work was long considered primarily of historical interest. She has, however, won critical acceptance in the twentieth century for her later poetry, which is less derivative and often deeply personal. In 1956 the poet John Berryman paid tribute to her in Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, a long poem that incorporates many phrases from her writings.