2 - Salem Womens Holocaust Reading

2 - Salem Womens Holocaust Reading - Database: Academic...

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Database: Academic Search Premier CREDULITY, SUPERSTITION, AND FANATICISM: THE "WOMEN'S HOLOCAUST" The history of the Salem witch trials raises disturbing questions for our own time. "I believe that never were more Satanical Devices used for the Unsettling of any People under the Sun, than what have been Employ'd for the Extirpation of the Vine which God has here Planted." Cotton Mather, "Wonders of the Invisible World" There is nothing about the Rebecca Nurse house in Danvers, Massachusetts, to physically mark it as a link to the Salem witchhunt. A tiny, wood framed building surrounded by rolling fields, it appears today pretty much as it did in March 1692, when its 71-year-old occupant, "in a weak and Lowe condition in body' was dragged from her sickbed to answer charges of witchcraft. Her spectral body, according to eyewitnesses, had been roaming the New England countryside, tormenting the godly, afflicting their livestock, murdering their babies. Nurse was examined by local magistrates, jailed, tried, convicted, and then taken to Gallows Hill in Salem Town on July 19, 1692, and executed. Forbidden a Christian burial, her body--along with those of four other women killed that day--was flung into a nearby ravine. "I can say before my eternal father that I am innocent" she told her inquisitors, "and God will clear my innocence." Twenty accused witches--14 women and six men--were hung or tortured to death in Salem that year, while another four died in prison. At least 150 others, most of them women, were imprisoned, and still hundreds more were accused, their cases pending as the witch craze ended. In the town of Andover alone, more than 50 of its estimated 600 residents were uspects. . . . By all accounts, the winter of 1691-1692 was a bleak one, and residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts faced another year of harsh weather and poor crops. The colony was under attack by Native Americans and their French allies, and larger communities, such as Boston and Salem Town, were flooded with refugees from the threatened frontier. Cotton Mather, one of the colony's most respected clerics, noted the rising incidence of suicide among the faithful, while contemporary sermons were filled with references to the Day of Judgment, associated by some with the coming turn of the century. There had been a recent outbreak of smallpox, and clerics wondered aloud if the great Puritan experiment--the attempt to build God's kingdom on earth--would survive the decade. The gravest threat, however, came not from Indians or nature but from the English Crown, which had revoked the Massachusetts charter in 1684. A new charter, imposed in 1692, curtailed the colony's autonomy, restricted its ability to compete commercially with England, and doomed Puritan political hegemony. For the first time, non-Puritans--despite all efforts, a rapidly growing part of the white population--would be allowed a voice in government. The charges of witchcraft at Salem came at a time when the institutions of the
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2 - Salem Womens Holocaust Reading - Database: Academic...

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