American women have created an especially vigorous and innovative poetry, beginning in 1632 when Anne Bradstreet set aside her needle and picked up her "poet's pen." The topics of American women poets have been various, their images their own, and their modes of expression original.
Emily Stipes Watts does not imply that the work of American men and that of American women are two different kinds of poetry, although they have been treated as such in the past. It is her aim, rather, to delineate and define the poetic tradition of women as crucial to the understanding of American poetry as a whole.
By 1850, American women of all colors, religions, and social classes were writing and publishing poetry. Within the critical category of "female poetry," developed from 1800 to 1850, these women experimented boldly and prepared the way for the achievement of such women as Emily Dickinson in the second half of the nineteenth century. Indeed at times—for example from 1860 through 1910—it was women who were at the outer edge of prosodic experimentation and innovation in American poetry.
Moving chronologically, Professor Watts broadly characterizes the state of American poetry for each period, citing the dominant male poets; she then focuses on women contemporaries, singling out and analyzing their best work. This volume not only brings to light several important women poets but also represents the discovery of a tradition of women writers. This is a unique and invaluable contribution to the history of American literature.