I found this weekend’s readings from Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States as well as the poems and readings about both Anne Bradstreet and Phillis Wheatley to be very enlightening. While reading “The Intimately Oppressed” from A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn discussed how women were treated based upon culture, status, and race. He explained how women of other cultures such as Native American were often treated much better than the black and white women of the colonies. Specifically, Zinn talked about how women from Native America tribes such as the Zuñi tribe were not treated as equals to men; however, they were treated with the same amount of respect as a man. White women in the colonies were frequently mistreated and were often used for child-barring purposes or as a sex slave. On the other hand, black women in the colonies faced the greatest problems. Not only did they have to deal with slavery and racism, but they also had to deal with the same problems that white women faced. The only difference was that white women had the opportunity to fight a court case, if there was one regarding an immoral act, whereas women who were enslaved didn’t have the same opportunity. An excerpt said by Sojourner Truth on page 124 of A People’s History of the United States was very powerful. She talked about the problems that she had endured because she was black and because she was a women. She argued that with a man who claimed that “women need to be helped into carriages and lifted over ditches” even though she never received this treatment. In fact, she worked the fields, was punished “by the lash”, and watched most of her thirteen children get sold into slavery yet nobody helped her simply because she was black.
I also found the readings and poems by Anne Bradstreet to be very interesting. I thought that she was very fortunate that her father worked as a steward for the Earl of Lincoln, thus giving Anne the opportunity to read the library within the home. The amount of reading she did, paired with her father educating her allowed her to prosper both as a reader and as a writer. When coming to the colonies with her husband, she found the conditions to be horrendous. She ended up living in a one room home shared between her family and another. In addition to that, she managed look over her eight children, complete her domestic responsibilities, as well as continue writing poetry. What was most interesting about her poetry was that she used her own experiences as a source to base her writing off of. The poems To My Dear and Loving Husband as well as Before the Birth of One of Her Children were both based upon Anne Bradstreet’s real life experiences.
Another poet who used her personal experiences to spur ideas for her writing was Phillis Wheatley. She was a young girl who was purchased by the Wheatley family in Boston. The family who purchased her ended up educating her in various subjects. Like Anne Bradsteet, Phillis Wheatley used her personal experiences within her poetry. She wrote about coming over from Africa on a slave-ship and being a black women in America. What I thought was intriguing from the article that we read was that not only did the Wheatley family educate Phillis, but they also helped her pursue her dreams as a poet. They helped her post advertisements in the streets about her poetry and over time, she gained numerous subscribers. In fact, her poetry was a catalyst for the Anti-Slavery movement within the colonies. Overall, I found the Phillis’ life story to be most interesting simply because I don’t believe it was common for white families to educate and aid a black women during this time in the colonies.