A Study in Two Women's Perspective on Marriage
Lesson plan for Teaching Anne
Bradstreet and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
A Course Overview:
This lesson plan will work well for high school students
as well as junior college level. This lesson would work well
within the curriculum of an American Lit class and would also
work as an individual lesson in a course designed to discuss
current culture and social issues writing class. One of the
objectives of this course would be to emphasize 'then and now'
comparisons, offering an historical perspective on contemporary
One of the issues I believe is important is to have
students examine women's roles, and as an important part of
the, women's role within marriage. My assumption is that many
students at this point have either a highly romanticized/unrealistic
view of marriage, or a highly cynical view depending on their
Student Learning Goals:
Poetry analysis, degree to which audience plays a
role in the mind of the writer, use of conventional models in
writing, how imagery can add to writing, historical framework,
and compare contrast.
Resources and Preparation:
Writing prompt prior to the assignment-How do your
own life experiences shape your beliefs about marriage? In your
view is marriage an assets or hindrance to women's independence?
Students will read biographies of both authors prior to class.
Begin by discussing student's responses to the writing
prompt. After that students will read the two Bradstreet poems
with analysis and discussion of both form and content. Questions
at this point: What is Bradstreet's view of marriage? How does
that compare to your own? Have an overheard with the Declaration
of Independence on a screen. As students read through the Declaration
of Sentiments, look for comparisons. Did she cheap out by parroting
the Declaration of Independence which was written entirely by
men? Or is it a clever way to use a well respected document?
See list of discussion questions included with this plan.
Students could research either the passage of the
Equal Rights Amendment or the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Exit prompt; Imagine Bradstreet and Cady Stanton
having lunch… what would they discuss? Where would they agree?
Where would they disagree? Imagine yourself there…What question
would you ask of each author?
Anne Bradstreet 1612-1672
Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley in Northhampton, England,
in 1612. She was the daughter of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke.
She lived in a time when the amount of education that a woman
received was little to none. Even though she did not attend
school, she was privileged enough to receive her education from
eight tutors and from her father, Thomas Dudley, who was always
more than willing to teach her something new. She was a very
inquisitive young person who satisfied her hunger for knowledge
through her extensive reading of some of the greatest authors
ever known. Thanks to her father's position as the steward of
the Earl of Lincoln estate, she had unlimited access to the
great library of the manor. This is where she became exposed
to the writings of many well known authors. In 1628 she married
Simon Bradstreet, her father's assistant.
In 1629, her father and husband had joined a group of very
successful men, whose goal was to protect Puritan values from
people like the Bishop of Laud and establish their own society
in a new land. On March 29, 1630, Bradstreet and her family
immigrated to the New World. Bradstreet was not too happy with
the idea of giving up all of the benefits of the Earl's manor
for what the wilderness of the New World had to offer. Nevertheless,
Bradstreet spent three months on her ship, the Arbella, before
she reached Salem on June 12, 1630. Ten other ships reached
the Salem port soon after hers.
When Bradstreet stepped foot on the soil of the New World, she
was overwhelmed by the sickness, lack of food, and primitive
living conditions. Regardless of all this hardship, she refused
to give in and return to England and instead made the best of
her new life. She struggled to raise eight children, take care
of her home, and she still found time to write. Bradstreet lived
a hard life, but she proved to be a strong woman and this internal
resolve is reflected in her writings.
Bradstreet was bothered by the cultural bias toward women that
was common in her time; the belief was that a woman's place
was in the home attending to the family and her husband's needs.
Women were often considered intellectual inferiors and because
of this, critics believed that Bradstreet stole her ideas for
her poems from men. Her writing was severely criticized because
it was that of a woman, receiving a different kind of criticism
than that of her male counterparts. The public had a similarly
harsh reaction to Bradstreet's role as a female writer. When
her first publication of The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up
in America was released, the idea that she was a virtuous woman
had to be stressed. John Woodbridge, her brother-in-law, had
to write: "By a Gentle Women in Those Parts" on the
title page to assure readers that Bradstreet did not neglect
her duties as a Puritan woman in order to write, by making it
clear that she found time for her poetry by giving up sleep
and using what little leisure time she had. We can see the anger
that Bradstreet feels towards this kind of criticism about her
writing in the following lines of her work "The Prologue":
I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits;
A poet's pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits.
If what I do prove well, it won't advance;
They'll say it's stol'n, or else it was by chance.
Simon Bradstreet played a crucial role in many of Bradstreet's
works. She wrote love poems about him when he was around as
well as when he was away on trips. In Bradstreet's Puritan culture,
the love between husband and wife was supposed to be slightly
repressed, so as not to distract one from devotion to God. Yet,
some of Bradstreet's sonnets work against this idea. A good
example of this is the poem, "To My Dear and Loving Husband,"
which contains the following lines:
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
Another theme in Bradstreet's works was her religious experiences.
In her writing Bradstreet gives an insight of Puritan views
of salvation and redemption. She writes about how she feels
that God has punished her through her sicknesses and her domestic
problems. The Puritans believed that suffering was God's way
of preparing the heart for accepting His grace. This idea plagued
Bradstreet, and she wrote about how she struggled to do everything
that she could to give into His will, in order to save her wondering
soul. However, she thought that God was so hard on her because
her soul was too in love with the world. She also wrote some
poems where she asked God to watch over her children and husband.
Bradstreet was not very successful with her first publications.
The first edition of The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up
in America was not very well received by critics. In writing
The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, as with some
of her later works, she tried to incorporate the style of the
male authors that she respected. By doing so she was limiting
her abilities and denying her feelings. The publication of her
first works gave her the confidence and experience to be more
free with her writing. In her later works, she began to write
in her own style, where her own emotions were now more clearly
expressed in her writings. One of these later works is "In
Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy
Memory", in which Bradstreet proclaims that women are worth
something. The use of her emotions in her writings is a technique
that changed Anne Bradstreet from a good writer into a great
To My Dear and Loving Husband
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
Recompense=can adequately return
A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon
My head, my heart, mine eyes, my life,
My joy, my magazine of earthly store,
If two be one, as surely thou and I,
How stayest thou there, whilst I at Ipswich lie?
So many steps, head from the heart to sever,
If but a neck, soon should we be together.
I, like the Earth this season, mourn in black,
My Sun is gone so far in's zodiac,
Whom whilst I 'joyed, nor storms, nor frost I felt,
His warmth such frigid colds did cause to melt.
My chilled limbs now numbed lie forlorn:
Return, return, sweet Sol, from Capricorn;
In this dead time, alas, what can I more
Than those fruits which through thy heat I bore?
Which sweet contentment yield me for a space,
True loving pictures of their father's face.
O strange effect! now thou art southward gone,
I weary grow the tedious day so long;
But when thou northward to me shalt return,
I wish my Sun may never set, but burn
Within the Cancer of my glowing breast,
The welcome house of him my dearest guest.
Where ever, ever stay, and go not thence,
Till nature's sad decree shall call thee hence;
Flesh of thy flesh, bone of thy bone,
I here, thou there, yet both but one.
Ipswitch=Town in Massachusetts, north of Boston
Zodiac=path of the sun and planets through space
Discussion Questions for "A Letter
to Her Husband" and "To My Dear and Loving Husband"
- What is the controlling image in the first six lines of
the poem? In what way does it set the stage for the expression
of the poem?
- In Lines 7 and 8 a new pattern of imagery emerges. Can students
identify this new image?
- Who is the 'Sun' in this poem? What kinds of associations
does this word typically call up?
- Do students notice anything in the poem that plays upon
the concepts of natural law and man-made law? Hints;
look at the allusions to time and the poem's use of legal
- Would this be a surprising poem for a Puritan woman to write?
Does it celebrate the body?
Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815-1902
Born in Johnstown, New York, Elizabeth Cady received the best
female education available at the time, at Emma Willard's Academy,
but regretted not having a full-fledged college education. She
spent her postacademy years like other young women of leisure,
in visiting and social activities, primarily at the home of
her cousin, the abolitionist Gerrit Smith. There she fell in
love with another abolitionist, Henry B. Stanton. An older,
romantic figure, Henry was part of the exciting world of reform
and politics to which she was drawn. Despite her father's opposition,
they married in 1840 and for their honeymoon went to London
to attend the World's Antislavery Convention. There Cady Stanton
met Lucretia Mott, the leading American female abolitionist,
and began to study the Anglo-American traditions of women's
In 1847, the Stantons moved to rural Seneca Falls, New York,
where Elizabeth bore the last three of their seven children
and grew resentful of her domestic confinement. In 1848, with
the help of Mott, she organized the world's first women's rights
convention. Despite Mott's reluctance, she insisted on including
the right to woman suffrage in its resolutions. In 1851, Cady
Stanton met Susan B. Anthony, with whom she formed a lifelong
partnership based on their common dedication to women's emancipation.
Three years later, she addressed the New York legislature on
an omnibus women's rights bill. In 1860, most of the legal reforms
she sought in women's status, with the notable exception of
enfranchisement, were secured.
Cady Stanton threw herself into the political drama of the
Civil War and with Anthony formed the National Women's Loyal
League on behalf of the constitutional abolition of slavery.
After the war, the two created deep conflicts among reformers
by attempting to link woman suffrage to black suffrage and,
when their efforts failed, by criticizing the Fourteenth and
Fifteenth Amendments for ignoring woman suffrage. Determined
to use the Constitution to enfranchise women, they established
in 1869 the National Woman Suffrage Association, forerunner
of the organization that eventually secured the Nineteenth Amendment.
"The prejudice against color, of which we hear so much,
is no stronger than that against sex. It is produced by the
same cause, and manifested very much in the same way."
-- Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Cady Stanton's interests extended far beyond the vote. She
had always advocated divorce law liberalization, and in 1860
she precipitated a heated debate among women's rights advocates
by urging women to leave unhappy marriages. In the late 1860s,
she began to advocate what she called the "right to self-sovereignty"--women
should take deliberate measures to avoid becoming pregnant.
These beliefs led her in the early 1870s into association with
the notorious "free lover," Victoria Woodhull. Because
of Cady Stanton's advocacy of liberalized divorce laws, reproductive
self-determination, and greater sexual freedom for women, hers
became an increasingly marginalized voice among women reformers
in the 1880s.
Cady Stanton also diverged from the mainstream women's movement
over religion. Her deep dislike of organized religion grew out
of a traumatic youthful conversion experience. In the 1880s,
she visited England, where she was influenced by freethinkers
and biblical critics. Back in the United States, she learned
that Christian political activists were attempting to close
public institutions on the Sabbath, undo divorce law liberalization,
and even establish Christianity as the state religion. Determined
to oppose them, she found herself on a collision course with
the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, a new generation of
suffrage leaders, and even Anthony. In 1898 she published The
Woman's Bible, a scholarly but irreverent feminist commentary,
for which the National American Woman Suffrage Association censured
her. Although embittered, she continued her independent course
on behalf of women's emancipation until her death in 1902.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, two American activists
in the movement to abolish slavery called together the first
conference to address Women's rights and issues in Seneca Falls,
New York, in 1848. Part of the reason for doing so had been
that Mott had been refused permission to speak at the world
anti-slavery convention in London, even though she had been
an official delegate. Applying the analysis of human freedom
developed in the Abolitionist movement, Stanton and others began
the public career of modern feminist analysis
The Declaration of the Seneca Falls Convention, using the model
of the US Declaration of Independence, forthrightly demanded
that the rights of women as right-bearing individuals be acknowledged
and respected by society. It was signed by sixty-eight women
and thirty-two men.
When, in the course of human events,
it becomes necessary for one portion of the family of man to
assume among the people of the earth a position different from
that which they have hitherto occupied, but one to which the
laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect
to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare
the causes that impel them to such a course.
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women
are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with
certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty,
and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments
are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent
of the governed. Whenever any form of government becomes destructive
of these ends, it is the right of those who suffer from it to
refuse allegiance to it, and to insist upon the institution
of a new government, laying its foundation on such principles,
and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem
most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence,
indeed, will dictate that governments long established should
not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly
all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to
suffer. while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves
by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when
a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably
the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute
despotism, it is their duty to throw off such government, and
to provide new guards for their future security. Such has been
the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and
such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the
equal station to which they are entitled. The history of mankind
is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part
of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment
of an absolute tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be
submitted to a candid world.
The history of mankind is a history of
repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward
woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute
tyranny over her. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a
He has never permitted her to exercise
her inalienable right to the elective franchise.
He has compelled her to submit to laws,
in the formation of which she had no voice.
He has withheld from her rights which
are given to the most ignorant and degraded men--both natives
Having deprived her of this first right
of a citizen, the elective franchise, thereby leaving her without
representation in the halls of legislation, he has oppressed
her on all sides.
He has made her, if married, in the eye
of the law, civilly dead.
He has taken from her all right in property,
even to the wages she earns.
He has made her, morally, an irresponsible
being, as she can commit many crimes with impunity, provided
they be done in the presence of her husband. In the covenant
of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband,
he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master--the law
giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer
He has so framed the laws of divorce,
as to what shall be the proper causes, and in case of separation,
to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given, as
to be wholly regardless of the happiness of women--the law,
in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy
of man, and giving all power into his hands.
After depriving her of all rights as
a married woman, if single, and the owner of property, he has
taxed her to support a government which recognizes her only
when her property can be made profitable to it.
He has monopolized nearly all the profitable
employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she
receives but a scanty remuneration. He closes against her all
the avenues to wealth and distinction which he considers most
honorable to himself. As a teacher of theology, medicine, or
law, she is not known.
He has denied her the facilities for
obtaining a thorough education, all colleges being closed against
He allows her in church, as well as state,
but a subordinate position, claiming apostolic authority for
her exclusion from the ministry, and, with some exceptions,
from any public participation in the affairs of the church.
He has created a false public sentiment
by giving to the world a different code of morals for men and
women, by which moral delinquencies which exclude women from
society, are not only tolerated, but deemed of little account
He has usurped the prerogative of Jehovah
himself, claiming it as his right to assign for her a sphere
of action, when that belongs to her conscience and to her God.
He has endeavored, in every way that
he could, to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen
her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent
and abject life.
Now, in view of this entire disfranchisement
of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious
degradation--in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and
because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently
deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have
immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong
to them as citizens of the United States.
- How is the Declaration of Sentiments like/unlike the Declaration
It is very much like the Declaration of Independence in the
preamble, except for the assertion that “all men and women
are created equal.” Also like the Declaration of Independence
it is divided into three main parts. Instead of grievances
against King George, the declaration of sentiments lists grievances
of women against the patriarchal establishment. The Declaration
of Sentiments contains about the same-one or two fewer-of
items as the 1776 document.
- How many of the grievances listed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton
are still issues for women today?
Asking students to list them or to compare them with current
women's issues now can be a great discussion.
- Ask students if they were present at the Seneca Falls convention,
would they have signed the document. Why or why not?
- Ask students to imagine they are Elizabeth Cady Stanton
in 1848. What was her life like? What was her state of mind?
How does this document reflect some of the things we learned
about her personal life?
- Ask students to contrast the styles of the two documents.
The Declaration of Sentiments attempts to reflect revolutionary
writing and therefore revolutionary ideals weaved with Stanton's
own experience results in a more direct and personal style.
I have noticed many of my students having and 'either/or'
outlook on the issue of marriage. Some, even though young, can't
wait to get married, thinking it will be the end of their problems.
They will finally have their 'man' all to themselves, or they
feel they will finally be financially and emotionally stable.
Others make jokes about it, have a jaded outlook on it. These
young women consider it equal to 'the end' of living. I know
these attitudes are shaped by their personal experiences. I
don't think I can necessarily change their view, but maybe by
examining how others feel, looking at marriage from a historical
perspective and discussing many ideas, I can expand their views.
I feel what these two women have to say is very important and
well written. It gives two very different views of marriage
and the role of women in marriage. Both women, in their historical
perspective, give a valuable lesson in language and perspective.
From Elizabeth Cady Stanton, A History of Woman Suffrage
, vol. 1 (Rochester, N.Y.: Fowler and Wells, 1889), pages 70-71.
This text is part of the Internet
Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection
of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level
classes in modern European and World history.