Six Women Of Salem: What Can We Learn From History?

Were Options For Women Limited?

In Six Women of Salem, historian and independent scholar, Marilynne K. Roach captures some of the meticulous details that have been otherwise forgotten about Bridget Bishop, Mary English, Rebecca Nurse, Ann Putnam Sr., Tituba and Mary Warren. While these details may appear to be insignificant descriptions about the daily activities, personal struggles, cultural expectations, etc. they effectively put together, a clearer picture of what the limitations were that women faced.

Six Women Of Salem by Marilynne K Roach

Click here to buy a copy of Six Women Of Salem!

Status & Wealth Offer No Guarantees

Wealth or lack thereof, impacted a woman’s ability to survive the harsh New England winter. It was not simply a matter of social status but rather the ability to obtain wood for heat in the cold, food and shelter.

In the case of Mary Warren, she was bound to the Proctor family and would often fantasize about her life if she were fortunate enough to marry someone who had wealth and could take her away from the life of a servant. There were clearly not many options for Mary.

Mary English was married to one of the wealthiest men in Salem. She was well-educated and appeared to be an astute business woman, making wise business decisions in order to secure a stable future. However, nothing was guaranteed.

Ann Putnam, Sr. had wealth along with a myriad of emotional issues which consumed her. Her daughter, Ann Putnam, Jr. was one of the afflicted girls that played a crucial role in the trials.

Ann Putnam's tomb in Danvers

The Putnam tomb (the unmarked mound, circled in red) in Danvers, formerly Salem Village is still a privately owned and active burying ground.

Rebecca Nurse was a well-respected, pious woman who was also hanged for being a witch. Given the fact that she was seventy-one years old and from a family who owned a substantial amount of land which bordered the Putnam family, it made people wonder about the sincerity of the accusations.

Bridget Bishop’s name was made famous because she was hanged for being a witch in 1692 during the famous Salem witch trials. Sadly, although she was a victim of domestic abuse and had lived a very harsh life she is remembered for being found guilty of being a witch. Her accusers, like her judges were consumed with fear and ignorance, succumbing to a hysteria that inflicted the entire region turning neighbor against neighbor.

Bridget Bishop was hanged for being a witch.

Bridget Bishop was hanged for being a witch.        How do you want to be remembered?

Tituba: Vindictive Strategy Or Self-Defense?

Although there is a woman on record named Tituba, her life history is still a bit of a mystery. Due to the lack of uniform spelling which was a common practice, it was believed that Tituba was a young woman, kidnapped from her home by the Amacura River, then brought to New England on a slave ship. Tituba endured the painful and abusive life of a New England slave. The cruelty inflicted upon her could have been the reason why she accused several people of witchcraft and also agreed that the accusations against her were true in order to avoid further abuse, thus saving her own life.

Salem Village Parsonage Site 6

The cellar holes from the Salem Village Parsonage Site as seen from the kitchen ell where Tituba worked.

Hollywood Profits From History

Hollywood never misses a chance to monetize every horrific moment in time and turn history into a manufactured fantasy. The hit series, American Horror, Coven, (produced by FX Networks) which is in its third season, features some characters, who apparently are the descendants of some of the “witches” from Salem.

“American Horror Story: Coven tells the secret history of witches and witchcraft in America. Over three hundred years have passed since the turbulent days of Salem and those who managed to escape are now facing extinction. Mysterious attacks have been escalating against their kind and young girls are being sent away to a special school in New Orleans to learn how to protect themselves. Wrapped up in the turmoil is new arrival, Zoe, who is harboring a terrifying secret of her own. Alarmed by the recent aggression, Fiona, the long-absent Supreme, sweeps back into town, determined to protect the Coven and hell-bent on decimating anyone who gets in her way.”



Listen To The Interview

In this segment of The Organic View Radio Show, author, Marilynne Roach talks to June Stoyer about her new book, “Six Women of Salem”. For those of you that are interested in history, you will be intrigued by her detailed research about one of the most terrifying events in American history.

About The Author

Marilynne K. Roach earned a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and works as both a historian and illustrator. She has drawn illustrations and written how-to and travel articles for the Boston Globe, has lectured to groups ranging from kindergarten to senior citizens, and has written several scholarly articles on various aspects of the witch scare. She is a lifelong resident of Watertown, Massachusetts.

Photo credit Joyce Kelly

Marilynne K. Roach. Photo credit Joyce Kelly


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