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Which person whom you read about in the essays and/or documents in Kerber in Module 3 do you find most interesting or remarkable? Why?

An overview of the accusers and some of the accused in the 1692-93 witch trials in Salem, MA. What is missing is the broader context of Puritan anxiety over a number of problems, including wars with Indians, crop failures, epidemic diseases, political turmoil in England and in the colonies, as well as declining religious fervor. These problems led many to believe they had lost God’s favor, thus they were more susceptible than ever to accusations of witchcraft. In short, rooting out witches was seen as a way to reclaim God’s favor and thereby end these difficulties.

HIS 125 Notes 3
New England Women
What kinds of people went to 17th century New England?
1. Religious dissidents, esp. English Calvinists like the Pilgrims and Puritans
2. These people want to be free from English control, esp. the Church of England
3. People come as families, not single servants
4. People are from a variety of socio-economic classes, many are middle class and have a
wide variety of occupations and professions.
Why did Puritans differ with the Church of England?
1. Felt it was still too much like the Roman Catholic Church: too much hierarchy, too
much ritual, ornate churches with statues, etc.
2. Pilgrims and Puritans believe in congregationalism (control at local church)
3. Signs of election for church membership
What did the covenant mean to Pilgrims and Puritans?
A covenant (binding agreement or solemn promise) between God and humans, ruler and
the ruled, husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants/slaves
What were the expectations for Puritan/Pilgrim women?
Attend church, get married, good housewifery, defer to men, have children
Although Puritan/Pilgrim women were expected to defer to men and be considered with
household tasks (which could include dairying, household business, etc.) were there any
protections for them within marriage and the family?
1. Spouses were not allowed to abuse one another verbally or physically
2. Husbands were bound by the covenant to work, provide for family, love family, so
men had obligations as well
Why was Anne Hutchinson seen as a threat to Puritan leaders?
Demographic Profile for Pilgrim/Puritan women:
Marriage: Men 23-25
Women 18-20
Average # of children: 6-8
Age at Death (in late 17th century);
Men: early 70s
Women: around 70
Why was there such a drastic difference between New England and the Chesapeake?
(Pilgrims and Puritans thought it was a sign of God’s blessing on them.)
More middle-class people, not poor and desperate like the Chesapeake
Better standard of living and nutrition
Colder, but healthier environment overall
Strong support networks and sense of community in New England.
Women in colonial America and up until the late 1860s-early 1870s were permitted to end a
pregnancy until quickening (when the mother first feels movement in her womb). This first
movement was usually felt at around 15-20 weeks (sometimes earlier or later). The combination
of herbal potions and strenuous exercise prescribed by midwives and other healers was known as
“restoration of menses” and was not illegal. Moreover, it was considered an essential part of
women’s health. After quickening it was considered abortion and was not legal. Still, it was up
to the woman to identify whether or not she had felt movement.
Women and Witchcraft in Salem
During the 1692 witchcraft craze in Salem, MA, 20 people and two dogs were executed for
witchcraft. Roughly 75% of the accused were middle-aged women? Why?
Traditional sources identified women as more susceptible witchcraft. Middle age
represents women’s most powerful time in life as they are freed from constant child-bearing, etc.
But at the same time, these women lose one of their primary functions in society.
What were some of the characteristics of the first people to be accused?
Usually “outsiders” who don’t fit into Puritan ideals of the goodwife. For example,
Tituba the West Indian slave woman, Bridget Bishop the tavern owner, Sarah Good the poor,
homeless woman (probably mentally ill) who went around cursing at people. Some were people
who had argued with the families of the accusers. Others were accused because of jealousy, etc.
Who were the primary accusers? Why?
Young girls and teen-aged women—the least
powerful people in Puritan society. Their mothers and some male family mothers would
eventually join their accusations.
What kind of evidence was presented?
Hard evidence was lacking. Accusers could claim
“spectral” evidence, e.g. the image of the person tormented them. Some men claimed that the
accused woman flew into their bed chamber at night and lay on top of them.
Why did people believe this?
Most people believed in God and in the devil and believed
that some people worked for God while others were in cahoots with the devil. In the 1690s the
situation was not good in New England—economic stagnation, Indian wars, outbreaks of
disease, crop failures, the colonial charter of Massachusetts had been revoked and a number of
colonies were merged into the dominion of New England. People were eager to blame someone
or something and were convinced that God’s protection had left them because they allowed
witches to live among them.
How or why did accusations end?
Soon respectable people in the community were being
accused. The governor, who had been away fighting Indians, returned to find that his wife had
been accused. He called for a release of prisoners and an end to the trials.
Were the accused poor and powerless or potentially powerful?

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