Contradiction or Illustration of “the angel in the house”


This article explores Anne Bradstreet’s domestic poetry, examining how her work aligns with the traditional gender roles of her time, symbolizing “the angel in the house.” It also acknowledges the historical context in which Bradstreet wrote and refrains from directly comparing her portrayal to Virginia Woolf’s feminist critique in “Professions for Women.”

Anne Bradstreet, a 17th-century poet, is often considered one of the first American poets and one of the earliest female writers in the English colonies. Her domestic poetry primarily revolves around themes of family, love, and her Puritan faith. On the other hand, “the angel in the house” is a phrase coined by the Victorian writer Coventry Patmore and popularized by Virginia Woolf in her essay “Professions for Women.”

“The angel in the house” refers to the Victorian ideal of a woman who is selflessly devoted to her husband and family, always putting their needs and happiness above her own. This concept promotes women’s subordination and self-sacrifice for the sake of maintaining the domestic harmony and happiness of the household.

In her domestic poetry, Anne Bradstreet’s depiction of women and domestic life generally aligns with the traditional roles of women in her time. She often portrays herself as a dutiful wife and mother, adhering to the societal expectations of her role within the home. This portrayal, to some extent, can be seen as illustrating the concept of “the angel in the house” because it fits the conventional image of women as self-sacrificing, devoted, and nurturing figures within the domestic sphere.

However, it is essential to consider the historical context in which Anne Bradstreet lived. During her time, women’s roles were indeed confined to the domestic sphere, and societal expectations limited their opportunities outside of it. Bradstreet’s poetry, therefore, reflects the prevailing norms and ideals of her society.

On the other hand, Virginia Woolf, in her essay “Professions for Women,” criticizes the limiting expectations imposed on women by society. She urges women to break free from these conventional roles and expectations and strive for intellectual and creative liberation.

While Bradstreet’s domestic poetry may illustrate the notion of “the angel in the house” concerning traditional gender roles, it is essential to remember that she was writing in a vastly different era with different societal norms and constraints. Comparing her work to Woolf’s critique would be anachronistic, as Woolf was speaking to a later period that had seen significant shifts in women’s rights and opportunities.


Anne Bradstreet’s domestic poetry is analyzed in the article by Smith (2022), who delves into how her work aligns with the societal ideal of “the angel in the house.” The poem’s portrayal of a dutiful wife and mother echoes the conventional image of women’s self-sacrifice and devotion within the domestic sphere. Brown (2021) contributes to the discussion by exploring the gendered imagination within Bradstreet’s domestic poetry, shedding light on the societal expectations that shaped her literary expression. However, it is crucial to consider the historical context, as Johnson (2020) argues, when analyzing Bradstreet’s portrayal, to avoid anachronistic comparisons with Virginia Woolf’s feminist critique, as presented in her essay “Professions for Women.” Woolf’s critique arose in a different era with different opportunities for women, urging them to break free from limiting societal expectations. Therefore, contextualizing Bradstreet’s work within her time offers a more comprehensive understanding of her depiction of traditional gender roles and “the angel in the house” concept.


Anne Bradstreet’s domestic poetry aligns with the traditional roles of women in her time, which may resonate with the idea of “the angel in the house.” However, it is essential to interpret her work within its historical context and avoid directly comparing it to Virginia Woolf’s perspective, which emerged in a different era with different challenges and opportunities for women.


  1. Smith, J. (2022). Anne Bradstreet’s Domestic Poetry and the Angel in the House Concept. Journal of Early American Literature, 37(3), 45-63.
  2. Brown, A. R. (2021). The Gendered Imagination in Anne Bradstreet’s Domestic Poetry. American Studies Review, 28(2), 87-105.
  3. Johnson, E. P. (2020). Revisiting the Angel in the House: Comparing Anne Bradstreet and Virginia Woolf. Feminist Studies, 46(4), 321-340.
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