Welcome to Fantastic Women Fridays! This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the nineteenth amendment, granting women the right to vote. As we come upon this important milestone, it is worth pausing to consider the close links between women’s history and the history of witchcraft. Though anyone could be accused of witchcraft, the individuals who were the most susceptible to these accusations were women. Though estimates vary, approximately 75% of witchcraft accusations were brought against women in most regions of Europe. Women’s history and the history of witchcraft are closely connected, and thus will be a focus for our museum this year. In recognition of this important milestone, we are highlighting the stories of amazing women from both Salem and witch history that deserve recognition!
Friday, March 27
Four Outstanding Women of Salem: Mary Spencer, Elizabeth Peabody, Sarah Parker Remond, and Caroline Emmerton
Countless strong women have contributed to Salem’s history over the years, from the city’s founding in 1626 to today. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which granted women the right to vote, we thought we’d take a brief look at the fascinating lives of four of these pioneering women.
Mary Spencer (circa 1775-1828) is credited with creating America’s first candy. She and her son Thomas survived an 1800 shipwreck in Salem, but lost everything else in the disaster. Mary found herself in a new world, a destitute single mother. With a barrel of sugar donated by a few of the women of Salem, she began making “Gibralters,” a British confection consisting of cream of tartar, sugar, corn starch, and lemon or peppermint flavoring. Initially Mary sold her candy on the steps of the First Church of Salem, but in time, she made enough money to buy a horse and cart, in which she traveled to surrounding towns selling her Gibralters. In 1806, she opened the first candy store in America, on the ground floor of a house on Buffum Street where she lived. In addition to running a candy business, Mary Spencer and her son Thomas were also active abolitionists. It is said that Mary transported escaped slaves, hidden beneath the seat of her cart, as she traveled around the area. After Mary’s death, Thomas Spencer sold the company to John William Pepper, who created America’s first stick candy, Black Jacks. Pepper then sold the company to his employee George Burkinshaw. The Burkinshaw family still owns Ye Olde Pepper Company of Salem, where they make lemon and peppermint Gibralters and Black Jacks to this day. Mary Spencer’s cart is in the collection of the Peabody Essex Museum.
Elizabeth Peabody (1804-1894), a pioneer of children’s education, opened the first kindergarten in the United States in 1860. Although she was born in Billerica, she spent her early years in Salem. She was the oldest of the three accomplished daughters of dentist Nathaniel Peabody. Her sister Mary was a writer and Sophia, a painter. A tireless educator, Elizabeth Peabody opened her first school in Lancaster, MA in 1820, and an all-girls school in Brookline, MA in 1825. In 1834, she helped Bronson Alcott establish his innovative and controversial Temple School in Boston, which she wrote about in Record of a School, published in 1835. Two years later, she was a founding member of the Transcendentalist Club, along with Alcott, Margaret Fuller, Ralph Waldo Emerson (with whom she studied Greek years earlier), and William Ellery Channing. She opened a bookstore on West Street in Boston in 1842, which became a meeting place for intellectuals. It was also the setting for the weddings of her sisters: Mary to educator Horace Mann and Sophia to author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Thought to be the first woman publisher in America, Elizabeth Peabody published works on her own printing press, including Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience.” After closing her bookstore in 1850, Elizabeth taught, wrote and promoted public education throughout the following decade. In 1860, inspired by the kindergartens established by Friedrich Froebel in Germany, she opened America’s first formal kindergarten in Boston. Elizabeth died in 1894 at the age of 90 and is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA.
Sarah Parker Remond (1824-1894) was born into the most prominent African American family in Salem. Her father, John Remond, arrived in Salem in 1798 from Curacao and worked hard to improve his lot, traveling to Boston to learn the hairdressing and catering trades. According to a talk given by Dorothy Burnett Porter at the American Antiquarian Society in 1985, Remond returned to Salem in 1805 and moved into the Samuel McIntire-built Hamilton Hall. He worked out of Hamilton Hall for the next fifty years as the chief caterer for the many social events that took place there, including the famous dinner given for the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824. That same year, John and his wife Nancy (who assisted him in the catering business) had their seventh child, a daughter named Sarah. Although Sarah passed the entrance exam for her district school in Salem, she was not permitted to attend because of her race. In the following years, Sarah faced discrimination many times, in theaters, exhibitions, and hotels. Following in the footsteps of her older brother, famed lecturer and abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond, Sarah became an abolitionist and speaker at anti-slavery meetings and conventions in America. In 1859, she traveled to England, where she gave 45 anti-slavery lectures throughout the country over the next three years. By 1866, she had moved to Italy, where she studied medicine and became a practicing physician. Sarah died in 1894 at the age of 70. She is buried in Rome.
Caroline Emmerton (1866-1942) is remembered in Salem for her lifelong philanthropy and support of historic preservation. She followed the example of her grandfather, Captain John Bertram, who was a successful merchant and shipowner in Salem. Considered the richest man in town at the end of his life, Bertram donated to charities in support of men, women, and children in need. Caroline Emmerton, too, supported numerous charities including the Carpenter Street Home, a shelter for orphaned children. She was a founder of the first Boys and Girls Club established in Massachusetts and sat on the board of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities (today Historic New England). In 1908, Emmerton took over Salem’s first settlement house which had been run by the YMCA and was located in the Seaman’s Bethel on Turner Street. Teaching programs offered to new immigrants included sewing, crafts, dancing, and more. Emmerton then purchased the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion next door. The 1668 house, which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of the Seven Gables, had fallen into disrepair. Working with famed architect Joseph Everett Chandler, Emmerton brought the house back to life and opened it as the House of the Seven Gables museum in 1910, with admissions helping to fund her House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association. To this day, the Settlement Association helps immigrant families in Salem. Emmerton also saved other historic Salem buildings from demolition, including the Retire Becket House and the Hooper-Hathaway House, both of which were moved to the Gables’ property. Upon her death in 1942, The Salem Evening News called Caroline Emmerton “one of Salem’s Best Beloved Citizens,” saying, “she gave freely of her time and money for the benefit of underprivileged children and adults, winning the admiration and respect of the entire community.”
Friday, February 28
The Lost Voices of the Salem Witch Trials: Tituba Indian
Finding information about women’s lives can often be an impossible task for historians, and is even more so the case when researching women of color. If not for her role in the Salem witch trials, we would know almost nothing about the life of Tituba. In 1692, Tituba was the slave of Salem Village minister Samuel Parris. Very little is known about her life outside of the year 1692. When Reverend Parris moved to Salem Village in 1688, he brought with him two “Spanish Indian” slaves, Tituba and John Indian. It is unclear if he brought the couple back from Barbados or purchased them in Boston. It is also unclear if they were born in the Caribbean or, as some have suggested, south Florida. Another slave in the household, described in records as a “Negro lad” of 15, died in 1689. The ages of Tituba and John Indian are unknown.
Tituba and John lived in the home of Reverend Parris along with his 11-year-old orphaned niece Abigail Williams, his wife Elizabeth, and their three children, Thomas, aged 10, Betty, aged 9, and 5-year-old Susannah. In mid-January of 1692, first Betty and then Abigail suddenly fell ill, struck by a mysterious, frightening sickness. This illness would later spread to a group of neighborhood girls, and then across Essex County. Towards the end of February ,Tituba became the first person to be accused of witchcraft by the afflicted girls. As a slave she was already considered an outsider, and was looked at with suspicion and even hatred by those around her. At this time, the Devil was often called “The Black Man,” and the ongoing bloody wars between Native American tribes and the settlers seemed to confirm for many that indigenous people were in fact servants of the Devil himself. Though we do not know if Tituba was Native American, her dark skin would have associated her in the minds of the settlers with these Native groups. As a slave with no one to defend her, seen as an enemy by those around her, Tituba was a perfect target for accusation.
Tituba was first examined on March 1st at Ingersoll’s ordinary, and for days afterward in jail. Although initially she denied any knowledge of witchcraft, she would soon describe elaborate visions. The tormenting of the children, she said, was performed by the specters of Sarah Osborne (alternate spellings Osborn, Osburn, Osbourne), Sarah Good, two other women she didn’t know, and a man in black with white hair. She herself had ridden on a stick with Osborne and Good to torment Ann Putnam Jr. She had seen any number of supernatural animals – a black dog, a black hog, a yellow bird, cats, even a human-headed bird. All were “familiars,” companions of witches in animal form. She had signed the Devil’s book, where she saw the marks of nine witches. It is speculated that Reverend Parris beat her to obtain these confessions. Even if she was not beaten, as a slave with no one to defend her, Tituba may have realized her best chance of survival was to tell the judges what they wanted to hear. Although Tituba was jailed after her examination, she was not scheduled for execution.The judges thought that, kept alive, Tituba could lead to the discovery of additional witches. Tituba remained imprisoned for months, living through both a brutal summer and harsh winter.
When the trials came to an end , Tituba was still alive and remained imprisoned awaiting someone to pay her bail. Tituba, one of the first to be accused, was among the last to be released from jail in the Spring of 1693. Ultimately, Samuel Parris sold Tituba to pay for her jail expanses. Once she was released from jail, she seems to have been taken away by her new owner. Like so many others, Tituba then disappears from the historical record.
In early histories of the witchcraft trials, including Charles Upham’s Salem Witchcraft, Tituba is essentially blamed for starting the afflictions and strange behavior of the afflicted girls. These early histories argue Tituba taught magic and voodoo to the susceptible girls of Salem Village to relieve the boredom of long winter nights. Marion Starkey’s 1949 work The Devil in Massachusetts is a notable example, as it was one of the first major twentieth-century accounts of the Salem witch trials. Influenced by this scholarship, Arthur Miller included wild scenes of Tituba leading witchy celebrations in the woods in his fictional play The Crucible. The Salem Witch Museum opened its doors in 1972, as the first institution in Salem to teach the story of the Salem witch trials. At this time, the dominant scholarship maintained this depiction of Tituba. Since the 1970’s, the Salem witch trials has finally become an extremely popular field of research. Much information has been discovered since this time, and there has been a massive debunking of this initial depiction of Tituba. As our museum prepares for its 50th anniversary in 2022 we are undergoing a series of updates to our interpretive content, one of the most significant changes being to the role of Tituba in this story.
Both Marilynne Roach’s book Six Women of Salem and Elaine Breslaw’s Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem are incredible examples of historians revealing more about Tituba’s story and are must reads!
Friday, January 31
Three Defiant Women of the Witchcraft Trials: Sarah Good, Susannah Martin, and Martha Carrier
Women were accused of practicing witchcraft in 1692 Essex County for a number of reasons. Some were widows, wealthy or otherwise, who had no one to defend them. Some were suffering from physical or mental ailments that caused them to behave strangely, or to miss regular church meetings.
Frequently, women who were bold and argumentative were the ones who brought on their neighbors’ accusations, especially if they, or members of their families, had been accused previously. Three such women were Sarah Good, Susannah Martin, and Martha Carrier. All three were accused, convicted, and hanged for witchcraft in 1692.
Thirty-eight-year-old Sarah Good was one of the first three to be accused. Sarah had been cheated out of her inheritance by her stepfather, and, after two poor choices for husbands, was reduced to homelessness and begging by 1692. With her four-year-old daughter Dorothy in tow, Good traveled door-to-door, asking for help and making her neighbors uncomfortable with her grumbling. Despite her circumstances, she was a proud woman, and claimed her innocence to the end. Good is remembered for the words she spoke from the gallows on July 19, 1692, as Reverend Nicholas Noyes pressured her to confess. “I am no more a witch than you are a wizard and if you kill me, God will give you blood to drink!” she said.
Widow Susannah Martin, 71-years-old in 1692, was the only person from Amesbury to be executed for witchcraft. By all reports, her reputation made her a prime target. A victim of decades of gossip, she was no stranger to altercations with her neighbors. Forthright and confrontational, Goody Martin’s past included six unsuccessful lawsuits to inherit her father’s estate and she had appeared in court as a defendant numerous times for a variety of offenses. She was accused of witchcraft on two occasions before 1692, with the charges eventually dropped. Martin was hardened by thirty years of gossip. She laughed at her accusers during her May examination, treating them with contempt. Skeptical of the witch hunt, when confronted with the afflicted girls’ charges, Martin replied, “I have led a most virtuous and holy life.” Cotton Mather, who observed her trial, called Martin one of the most “impudent, Scurrilous, wicked creatures in the world.” A memorial marker in Amesbury notes that, in truth, Susannah Martin was an honest, hard-working Christian woman and was “a Martyr of Superstition.” She was hanged on July 19, 1692.
The first person to be accused of witchcraft in 1692 Andover was Martha Carrier, aged fifty-eight. Wife of the Welshman Thomas Carrier and raising five children at the time of the trials, Carrier was another rebellious and unruly woman. She was fearless in confrontations with her neighbors, many of whom suspected her of witchcraft because the town’s 1690 smallpox epidemic began in her home. They blamed her for the bewitchment of their family members and their livestock. As the Andover hysteria grew, four of her children were also accused of witchcraft and jailed, as were her sister Mary, brother-in-law Roger Toothaker, and their daughter Margaret, all of whom lived in neighboring Billerica. Unlike many in Andover who confessed in order to save their lives, Carrier remained defiant. Faced with afflicted accusers who claimed the Devil himself had promised her the title “Queen in Hell, and pressured by relentless magistrates, Carrier said, “It is a shameful thing that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits.” Carrier was hanged on August 19, 1692.