As I read the biography about Anne Bradstreet, I came across something that I wasn’t very familiar with. After talking about how educated she was and her marrying at age 16, the biography says that she came to America as a part of the Winthrop Fleet. I’ve never heard of that and really wanted to know more about it. What was the Winthrop Fleet? Why did the people want to leave England? Why did she go on a voyage to an unknown place? All of these questions are things that I’m interested in finding out.
As we learned from the biography we read, Anne Bradstreet and her family were Puritan. The Puritans were a significant religious group in England. They disagreed with the practices of the Church of England and looked that the rituals as superstitions. They became an activist movement within the church. The Puritans tried to get the people in England to follow their religious views.
King James did not like that idea at all. He wanted to put an end to the rebellious group that was moving so fast and becoming so popular. Eventually, the Puritans gained controlled of the Parliament. King James’ son, King Charles had a serious disagreement with the Parliament and saw them as a threat. In March of 1629, he permanently removed the Parliament. Puritans were blocked from changing established churches from within. They were restricted in England by laws controlling the practice of religion. The Puritans felt hopeless. Like there was nothing else they could do to change anything. Some of them stayed within the Church of England, but still had Puritan beliefs. They were known as non-separating Puritans. Others that believed they had to leave the Church of England because it was so corrupt were called Separatists. Many of these Puritans decide to leave England permanently and start a new life in New England.
So, what does that have to do with the Winthrop Fleet? Well, a very wealthy group of the Separatists decided to get some large ships together and set sail to a colony at Massachusetts Bay. About 300 people left for New England. Many stayed behind just so the first few people could make sure it was safe to settle there. Later that year, the remaining Puritans in England decided to make John Winthrop governor of the fleet and the new colony. The summer of 1630, Winthrop lead a “fleet” of 7 ships with about 700 Puritans on them going to Massachusetts Bay.
This is a short video that describes the Puritans a little bit more.
The Winthrop Fleet was a group of Puritans, including Anne Bradstreet and her family, going to New England. They wanted to leave England because they weren’t allowed to express their religion the way they wanted to there. They picked New England because it was a fresh place. There were no rules and no one told you what to believe in. That was a perfect place for them to start over and believe what they wanted to believe.