Isabella Whitney is well known for being one of the first woman to have published secular poetry. To be secular means that one does not believe in supernatural beings, one does not engage in religious behavior and one does not identify with religion. Secular poetry in Whitney’s time was rare especially for a woman. During the period in which Whitney’s poem was published was known as the renaissance. . The religious revolution was also occurring then. The church played an instrumental role in social and political control. During the renaissance period men in England were trying to play catch up with developments in arts, literature and philosophy. It was unusual for a woman much less a woman in Whitney’s class to write.
Whitney’s exact birth date is still unknown, but it is thought that she was born sometime around 1540. She came from a middle-class family that consisted of one boy and four girls. She began work as early as 14 as a servant. Her brother was said to be a famous writer. When things got rough Isabella traveled to London. She got a job working as a maid. During these times is where it was thought she began to write her poetry. To help make ends meet she published some of her poems for money. Being a woman in the middle class in the late 1500’s and being able to publish work was a great accomplishment. Isabella was infatuated with flowers. She was so obsessed that she named her second publication “A Sweet Nosegay”. A nosegay is a group of beautiful sweet flowers. Her second piece consisted of over a hundred flowers.