The Salem Journal: Legal News

Witches' Remise

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Women in Salem: Victims or Witches?

By David R

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Here in Salem the daily life of women is quite possibly a contributing factor to their "witch-like" actions. Being a social outcast could make people more likely to think you"re a "witch". Here, in Salem, any woman with a temper might be thought of as a witch. Interestingly women were some of the most influential people in the trials. Two such women were Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, who had so called "fits" that they claimed were caused by three local women who they later accused of being witches. They claimed these women were torturing them by pricking them with pins and making them dance among other things. The women they accused are: Tituba, who is the slave of Reverend Parris, Betty Parris's father; Sarah Osborne who is a married townswoman who doesn"t go to church and who lives with a man she is not married to; and Sarah Goode who is a local beggar with a temper. The trials of these women are influenced by their daily lives and, upon examining their tasks and chores, it turns out their lives are pretty grueling.

Married women of Salem, in addition to being a wife and sometimes mother, do the washing, cooking, hoeing vegetables, bartering with neighbors for things like eggs or flour, milking and herding cows, and once a week they have a baking day. On this baking day they bake all the bread for their families as well as do all their other work. They also need to know how to slaughter animals and then carve, cure, and/or cook them into food, like turning a pig into bacon, sausage and ham. They also make the family supply of beer and cider. Making beer is a 3-part process, and women do this in addition to their work on a daily basis. Making beer is a long, hard process needing skill and patience. The process for making beer is listed below.

...beginning with cracked malt made from sprouted and dried barley, she placed the malted liquid into an iron pot over an open fireplace steeping it just below the boiling temperature. This was known as the mashing process. It was important not to let the brew get too hot, otherwise the acetic acid developed which soured the beer. The next stage was the brewing process in which herbs and hops were added to the malted liquid. The final phase was when yeast was added and brew cooled. This took 24 hours after the addition of the yeast.
As you can see making beer is a long and involved process, yet all women must know how to do this.

Not only are their household chores difficult but also their community status is close to zero. Puritan women have no voice in church or in government. In their homes, their husbands have the utmost authority. Slaves take orders from men. Women might want to become witches to gain power. If women have persistent tempers they might be suspected of witchcraft. Yesterday three of the accused witches were interviewed. Tituba stated what it is like to live with the Parris family. " I do all the work that a wife would do and more. Mr. Parris is a good master to me but the devil bid me work for him[self]. " Sarah Goode said, " People often spurn me when I ask for food because they suspect me of being a witch. But I am no witch! Stop questioning me; I have nothing to hide." Sarah Osborne's statement is as follows: "I haven"t gone to church for a year because I have too much work to do since my husband died. Stop suspecting us as we are not witches." These are prime examples of how the housework of a woman affects the accusation and therefore trials.

Here in Salem Village in 1692, the daily lives of women are quite possibly affecting the outcome of these trials. Men are mistreating most of these women. Women are being accused of witchcraft. Men want to create a good community centered on a church, as is described in the Bible because in England the church is becoming too corrupt. Yet here in the new world we struggle to create a good and pure community. Perhaps this is because witches are corrupting our society or perhaps we are simply doing something wrong.

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