Category Archives: 17th Century

Anne Bradstreet – Poet and Feminist

“I am obnoxious to each carping tongue/ That says my hand a needle better fits.”

These are the word of Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), from the Prologue to her first collection of poems, published in London in 1650. With its publication, Anne became the first published woman poet writing in the English language. Also, as she had emigrated to America with her family at the age of eighteen, she became America’s first published poet, of either gender. Anne correctly foresaw that many would argue that poetry was not a fit occupation for a woman, and had prepared herself in advance to stand up to the critics. Continue reading Anne Bradstreet – Poet and Feminist

Aphra Behn

Aphra Behn (1640?-1689) was a 17th-century writer who challenged expectations of women at the time by writing plays, poetry and novels for profit.  Her most famous texts include The Rover, Oroonoko, and The Fair Jilt.   Some of her writing was notorious for its sexual themes, but she also got into trouble for writing about politics, a risk for any writer during this period but particularly for a woman.  Behn’s prose writing is seen as playing an important part in the development of the novel.

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Juana Inés de la Cruz – Scholarly Sister

Juana Inés de la Cruz was a nun with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and a firm belief in womens’ right to education. She is regarded by many as the first published feminist in the New World.

Born near Mexico City in 1651 to unmarried parents, Juana, like most girls of her time, had very little access to education as a child. But this didn’t stop her; she developed a desire to learn from an early age and could be found hiding in the chapel of the hacienda where she lived, devouring her grandfather’s books.

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Anica Vesel Mander

Yugoslavian-born Anica Vesel Mander, nicknamed Ani, dedicated her life to women’s and civil rights. Not only did she become heavily involved in the American Women’s Movement in the 1970s, she also conducted research in Yugoslavia in the 1990s that resulted in an international tribunal declaring rape a war crime.

Ani was born in 1934. After spending several years in hiding from Nazi forces on an island in the Adriatic Sea, Ani and her family moved to the United States and settled in California in 1949. Ani was a multi-linguist, speaking English, French, Italian and Serbo-Croatian. She pursued languages at university in Berkeley and would later receive a doctorate in women’s studies from the Union Institute in Cincinnati in 1976.

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Amelia Bassano Lanier – Shakespearean Shero

Amelia Bassano Lanier (1569-1645) was the first English woman to publish a book of original poetry. It now appears she may also have been the long-sought major author of the Shakespearean plays.

She was born into a family of Venetian Jews who had been brought to London to be the Court recorder musicians, and who lived as secret Jews or Marranos practicing their faith covertly.  From the age of 7 she was educated like a countess in the household headed by Lord Willoughby, the Danish ambassador, and his sister Countess Susan Bertie. About the age of 13 she was given to be an ‘honest courtesan’ to Queen Elizabeth’s half-brother Lord Hunsdon, 43 years her senior. He was the royal falconer, a judge, a general, and the Lord Chamberlain in charge of Court entertainments and the theater industry.

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