The Sad but True Life Story of Ann Putnam Jr.
Written by Tiffany S.
Ann Putnam Jr. was a twelve-year-old girl who was the leader of the Circle girls. The Circle girls were a group of young women who would name witches during the Salem Witch Trials. Ann accused sixty-two people of witchcraft, and nineteen of those people were unjustly executed.
Before the Trials
Ann Putnam Jr. was born on October 18, 1679, in Salem Village, Massachusetts Bay Colony. She was the eldest of ten children of Thomas and Ann Carr Putnam. During the first twelve years of her life, she was treated like any other girl of a Puritan family. She was expected to be respectful, complete the household chores, and attend church regularly.
During the winter of 1691, Ann and her friends gathered at the home of Reverend Parris to hear stories told by Tituba, one of the Reverend's female slaves. Tituba would entertain the guests by telling stories of voodoo and black magic. Fortune telling was also part of the entertainment. One day in February 1692, Ann attempted a fortune telling trick that Tituba had taught the girls. She saw the image of a coffin, which scared the girls, and weeks later they began to have fits and hallucinations. They would scream their lungs out, as well. At first, the girls only had fits at home, but later they began to have fits while attending church. The fits became an interruption and a distraction during Reverend Parris' Sermon. All eyes were on the girls. No one could cure the fits, and the girls were sent to a doctor, who diagnosed "witchcraft" as the cause of their malady.
In March of 1692, the girls were asked to name their tormentors. They named Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne as the first witches. Sarah Good was the town beggar, and Sarah Osborne was considered "impious" because she had not attended church for almost a year. These accusations were quickly supported by the townspeople. No one defended those people when it came time for their trial. Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne were part of the first group to be hanged for witchcraft along with Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, and Sarah Wilds.
After these trials had ended, the girls still experienced having fits and hallucinations. Once again, the girls were asked who their tormentors were. The girls named many people. Ann specifically named Rebecca Nurse and her sisters. Rebecca Nurse was the most religious woman in town. This accusation made people think that if Rebecca Nurse could be a witch then no one was safe! Rebecca Nurse and her sisters were found guilty and eventually hung on Gallows Hill.
Over the course of that year, Ann Putnam had accused sixty-two people from all over the colonies. Some of those people were Tituba, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, Martha and Giles Cory, George Burroughs, Rebecca Nurse, and Lady Phips, the governor's wife. During that year, twenty-four people and two dogs died because of the accusations made by the Circle girls. Ann's accusations were one of the sole causes of putting nineteen people to death. After Lady Phips was named as a witch, Governor Phips decided that it was enough. He finally ended the Salem Witch Trials on October 29, 1692.
After the witch trials ended, some of the Circle girls still accused people of witchcraft. They may have done this to have an excuse for not doing chores, or for the attention. This time, no one listened to their complaints. Ann Putnam led a hard life after the Salem Witch Trials. She went from being of person of privilege to providing service and care to others. Her parents died in 1699 within two weeks of each other, leaving Ann to raise nine younger siblings alone.
Later in her life, Ann Putnam wanted to join the church. A requirement before joining the church was to confess all of one's sins. Due to this requirement, Ann wrote an apology for her participation in the Salem Witch Trials. This is what she wrote:
"I desire to be humbled before God for that sad and humbling providence that befell my father's family in the year about '92; that I, then being in my childhood, should, by such a providence of God, be made an instrument for the accusing of several persons of a grievous crime, whereby their lives were taken away from them, whom now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons; and that it was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear I have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent blood; though what was said or done by me against any person I can truly and uprightly say, before God and man, I did it not out of any anger, malice, or ill-will to any person, for I had no such thing against one of them; but what I did was ignorantly, being deluded by Satan. And particularly, as I was a chief instrument of accusing of Goodwife Nurse and her two sisters, I desire to lie in the dust, and to be humbled for it, in that I was a cause, with others, of so sad a calamity to them and their families; for which cause I desire to lie in the dust, and earnestly beg forgiveness of God, and from all those unto whom I have given just cause of sorrow and offence, whose relations were taken away or accused."
Pastor J. Green read this apology out loud in the church on August 25, 1706. After her apology was read, Ann was accepted as a member of the church. Ann Putnam died at age 37 in 1716 from unknown causes. At the end of her life, loneliness was her constant companion. She never married and was buried in an unmarked grave next to her parents. Some call her a victim, some call her a predator, now that the facts have been stated, it's up to the reader to decide.