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 accusations were women. Though estimates vary, approximately 75% of witchcraft accusations were brought against women. As women were such a high percentage of those accused and convicted during witch trials, it is no surprise the image of the witch has primarily been that of a woman. In recognition of this important milestone, a new post is added to this blog on the last Friday of each month, telling the stories of incredible women connected to the history of witch trials, witch-hunts, the image of the witch, and the city of Salem!
Friday, September 25
Samantha Stephens: A True Good Witch
The image of the witch has changed and evolved dramatically over time. For hundreds of years, witchcraft was a serious criminal offence—as such, the witch was depicted as a horrible, grotesque figure. However, when legal witch trials finally came to an end, the witch slowly transformed in our cultural memory. While folklore included powerful female characters such as fairies, goddesses, and female spirits before this time, it was in 1900 with the publication of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that America was introduced to its first good witch. Though several films in the mid twentieth-century began to incorporate this new and intriguing figure, it was on September 7, 1964 with the primer of the television series Bewitched that the good witch became a recognizable and important figure in American popular culture.
Known for her charm, good looks, and humor, Elizabeth Montgomery’s portrayal of Samantha Stephens on the primetime television sitcom Bewitched became an instant media sensation. In its 254-episode run Bewitched welcomed Americans into the Stephens home, marriage, and family, as week after week viewers experienced the troubles and joys of the newlywed couple. Bewitched was the story of a “typical American girl, who happened to bump into a typical, red blooded American boy,” but with a twist, for Samantha Stephens was more than just a typical American girl, she was also a witch. Although Samantha Stephens was not technically America’s first “good witch,” her character permanently transformed the meaning of being labeled a “witch.” She was a beautiful, intelligent woman who sought (though consistently failed) to leave her magical world to devote herself to a new life as an American housewife.
Before starring in her role on Bewitched, Elizabeth Montgomery was a relatively unknown actress, most recognizable for her famous father, actor Robert Montgomery. Born at the peak of her father’s success, Elizabeth was raised in the world of Hollywood film. She first made her screen debut in 1951 on her father’s television show Robert Montgomery Presents. From there she went on to work in a string of plays and small-scale films, before landing the role of Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. A wildly popular show, during its 254-epiosde run, Bewitched introduced viewers of all ages to a new kind of witch—a good witch living the American dream.
Interestingly, though Samantha Stephens was an ideal domestic housewife, Elizabeth Montgomery pushed political boundaries, advocating for social justice causes in both her post-Bewitched career and personal life. As the famous Samantha Stephen’s of Bewitched, Montgomery had a wide variety of choices open to her as the series came to an end. Despite her varied opportunities, Montgomery preferred to focus on roles that challenged her as an actress, and often opted for projects that supported her political opinions. Her first post-Bewitched role was the 1971 film A Case of Rape. This powerful film followed the experience and trauma of a middle-class wife and mother after she was raped twice by the same attacker. The film chronicled the mistreatment and ordeal that was commonly experienced by rape survivors and was one of the first films to publicly point to systemic problems with the way rape cases were handled in contemporary America. NBC’s daytime operations vice president Lin Bolen Wendoks noted this film aired at a time when, “Women weren’t allowed to tell the truth or talk about their inner fears, or to challenge people who treated them in a way that was inappropriate. So, Montgomery was challenging the system and saying ‘I am much more than you think and I have something to say, and these characters are going to say it for me.’” Montgomery received considerable recognition for her work in this role, receiving her seventh Emmy nomination as a result.
Beyond her professional choices, Montgomery was also a distinguished political activist throughout her life. Some of her more notable political involvements included her vocal protest against the Vietnam War, support for the Peace Movement, contribution to AIDS research, endorsement of UNICEF, and appearance in a Gay Pride parade with Dick Sargent (her second Bewitched husband) as co-grand marshals in support of his coming out. In 1989 Montgomery and her husband Robert Foxworth served as honorary co-chairs at the National Gay Rights Advocates Eleventh Anniversary Celebration at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and the couple was additionally heavily involved with amfAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research) and APLA (AIDS Project Los Angeles).
Tragically, Elizabeth Montgomery struggled with colon cancer for many years. After believing she had beaten the disease, the cancer returned in Spring of 1995. By the time it was discovered, the cancer had already spread to her liver. Elizabeth Montgomery died at home, eight weeks after her diagnosis, on May 18, 1995. This woman was an incredible actress and a passionate advocate for human rights. It is perhaps supremely fitting that this special woman was the first to break through the stereotypical wicked witch of the past, bringing America it’s first truly good, beautiful, and empowering witch.
Friday, August 28
Margaret Chase Smith: An American Political Pioneer
Margaret Chase Smith (1897-1995) is remembered today for her Declaration of Conscience, presented during a fifteen-minute speech delivered on the Senate floor in opposition to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s tactics during his “witch hunt” for communists. Smith, a Republican Senator and the only woman in Congress in 1950, thought the Democrats would speak out against McCarthy. When they did not, Smith became the first Congress member to condemn McCarthy’s actions. Although not a fan of the Democratic administration of Harry Truman, Smith criticized the Republican party’s “selfish political exploitation of fear, bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance.” She said McCarthyism had “debased” the Senate to “the level of a forum of hate and character assassination.” She went on to say, “As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves.”
Six moderate Republicans initially co-sponsored her declaration, but one-by-one voiced their support of McCarthy until only Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon remained. Smith first introduced her Declaration of Conscience on June 1, 1950, and then again in 1951 when McCarthy attacked Secretary of Defense George Marshall. Smith entered it into the congressional record for a third time later that same year.
Smith was a pioneer in American politics. She was a Republican member of the House of Representatives from 1940-49, the first woman from Maine elected to Congress, winning the seat left vacant when her husband, Clyde H. Smith, passed away. She often broke ranks with her party, supporting many of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policies and voting against making the House Un-American Activities Committee permanent. She was a U.S. Senator from 1949-1973, the first woman to represent Maine in that body. In fact, she was the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress. To date, she holds the record as the longest-serving Republican woman in the Senate. Smith was a candidate for the Republican nomination in the 1964 presidential election, the first woman to be placed in nomination for the presidency at a major party’s convention. Smith lost the nomination to Barry Goldwater, who then lost the presidency to John F. Kennedy. During the Kennedy administration, Smith suggested nuclear weapons should be used against the Soviet Union, which led Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to describe Smith as “the devil in disguise of a woman.” She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush on July 6, 1989.
Looking back at her career, Smith said, “If I am to be remembered in history, it will not be because of legislative accomplishments, but for an act I took as a legislator in the U.S. Senate when on June 1, 1950, I spoke … in condemnation of McCarthyism, when the junior Senator from Wisconsin had the Senate paralyzed with fear that he would purge any Senator who disagreed with him.”
Friday, July 31
Tina Jordan: Oh Captain, Our Captain
This month we recognize an extra special woman on this Fantastic Friday. While July is the birthday month of Salem Witch Museum Executive Director, Tina Jordan, today we also recognize an incredible milestone — Tina’s 40th anniversary working at this museum.
Tina Koutsos Jordan joined the Salem Witch Museum on May 25, 1980 while still an undergraduate student at Wheaton College. A government major with a minor in history, Tina worked on a political campaign and as a library research page before joining the Salem Witch Museum. As so often happens to those of us who work in Salem, Tina fell in love with the fascinating history of this city, and began a long and deeply influential career in this community. Starting as a general staff member, Tina was quickly promoted to manager, and then Director of Sales, before becoming the Executive Director in 2008.
It is challenging to properly articulate the impact Tina Jordan has had on the Salem Witch Museum. It was Tina who pushed to translate the museum presentations into multiple languages, considerably increasing their accessibility. At Tina’s urging, the museum’s main presentation was made available in eight languages, including French, German, Japanese, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Mandarin and Cantonese. Tina has been a part of the Salem Witch Museum throughout its major changes, and has been instrumental to these alterations, unrelentingly pushing the museum to more effectively educate and support its visitors and community. It was Tina who advocated for redesigning the museum’s front vestibule to include information panels. These panels give introductory information about the Salem witch trials, as well as sites in the area that have direct connections to the events of 1692. This redesign better utilizes the space and creates an educational opportunity for visitors as soon as they enter the building. Former Executive Director Patty MacLeod, an incredible leader who had the privilege of working with Tina for several decades, described her time with Tina saying, “Helpful doesn’t even begin to describe her. She is instinctive, intuitive, and always right there with the idea that turned out to be the best idea all along. She always finds a way to get it done.”
Tina has seen, and participated in, some of the most significant milestones for the Salem Community over the past half century. Working with an incredible group of community leaders, Tina provided essential support during the Salem Witch Trials Tercentenary Commemoration. During this significant milestone, the Salem Witch Museum joined forces with the city of Salem to establish a memorial design competition, commemoration services, and the Salem Award Foundation (now Voices Against Injustice). Former Executive Director Patty MacLeod and Director of Education Alison D’Amario were deeply involved in the Tercentenary committee, requiring them to focus most of their efforts outside of the museum. It was Tina who continued to oversee the day-to-day museum operations in their absence and ensured they were able to channel the necessary resources to this important project. Patty MacLeod remembers Tina as a vital member of the team during this exhausting yet exciting time. She recounted, Tina was the one who, “Held down the fort at the museum.” Though never officially part of the committee, Patty recalls, “We couldn’t have done it without Tina. She had great ideas, and most importantly, she saved everything.” Today, our museum has an excellent record of this monumental project because of the careful and extensive records maintained and saved by Tina during this period.
Tina was also at the Salem Witch Museum during the first years of Haunted Happenings. This now massively successful October festival began in 1980 as a one-day event. Over the next several years, the celebration grew into first a weekend, and eventually the month-long festival that continues to this day. Once again lending invaluable support to the museum as the leadership channeled resources into this celebration, today Tina is a walking archive of this momentous period in our city’s history. At the drop of a hat, Tina can vividly remember the important figures, early news stories, initial events, and the extent of our museum’s involvement, in this now internationally famous festival. Tina also left her own mark on Haunted Happenings with her involvement in the creation of Haunted Harmonies. In 2016, Tina was one of the founding members of this day-long acapella festival. A tremendous success, this student-focused event has been hosted annually in Salem during the month of October for the past four years. Haunted Harmonies is yet another example of Tina’s commitment to the community, as this event has become a unique way to utilize the increasingly popular October festivities as a way of celebrating and encouraging local students with a passion for music.
Beyond her involvement at the Salem Witch Museum, Tina has been an important member of boards and committees that serve the entire North of Boston area. Involved in Destination Salem from the early years, Tina has served on the Destination Salem Board from 2008 – 2011 and 2014 – present. She served as president of the board in 2010, VP in 2018, has been president since 2019, and has held several significant roles in the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Tina’s organizational prowess, enthusiasm, and tenacity are downright legendary in the Salem community. Anyone who has had the pleasure of working with Tina knows she is a kind, fair, and empathetic person, but she is also one of the most determined and intense people you may ever meet. One of the only appropriate ways to describe Tina Jordan is as a sheer force of nature. Patty MacLeod chuckled remembering her years working with Tina, noting she would have to force her to stop working and go home when she was ill. To this day, after all her years at the museum, Tina is frequently the first to arrive and the last to go home. During October, on the busiest days of the year, Tina does everything in her power to support and care for the staff, from ensuring there is an endless supply of comfort food (as well as healthy options) in the breakroom, to working long hours on the floor alongside the staff to ensure there is never too much of a burden on any one person. Virtually every person who has had the pleasure of working with Tina can immediately recall a time when she went above and beyond to provide help and support. Tina is the kind of leader, and simply the type of person, who will drop everything to help someone else, even if this means pushing herself to the point of exhaustion to do so. Moreover, she also has a remarkable ability to understand the strengths of those around her, and will utilize, support, and encourage these abilities. So many of us working at the museum today have been the beneficiaries of this particular skill, and owe so much to Tina’s uncanny ability to recognize and encourage our strengths (which Tina refers to as our “superpowers”).
Not only has Tina accomplished all of this while also raising two wonderful and successful daughters, but she has served as a mentor, teacher, and inspiration to countless employees over the past 40 years. There is not a single person who has passed through the Salem Witch Museum who has not been touched by the work of Tina Jordan. This short post is not enough to recount the important contributions made by this fantastic woman. Thank you, Tina, for everything you have done and continue to do. We love you.
Here are some anecdotes from the friends and colleagues who have had the privilege of working with this fantastic woman throughout her long and impactful career:
“I can’t talk about Tina and her many contributions to Salem’s tourism industry without getting emotional. She has been a stalwart advocate for the tourism industry and its community since the day I met her. I feel fortunate to have Tina as a mentor, a peer, and a friend.”
–Kate Fox, Executive Director, Destination Salem
“She is a superhero in the eyes of Salem tourism. Always there to support and contribute. Passion for upholding the story of the witch trials with the museum and always the bright spot of my day when I pick up the phone to call her!”
-Stacia Cooper, Assistant Director/Sales, Destination Salem
“Tina Jordan epitomizes community leadership- not just in Salem but throughout the North of Boston region and the Commonwealth. Tina has supported the North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau throughout her tenure at the Salem Witch Museum and has served in multiple leadership positions on the Board of Directors over the years. No one is a better business partner than Tina, and her passion for the tourism industry is evident in everything she does. Congratulations to Tina for 40 successful years at the Salem Witch Museum, and Happy Birthday to my dear friend!”
-Ann Marie Casey, Executive Director, North of Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau
“Working with Tina for ten years – and being her house guest for six weeks – taught me so many things, but I’ll try to narrow it down to the just three:
- Take care of your people first. Then they’ll take care of your business.
- Find a person’s talent and match them with projects that highlight that talent.
- Snacks are a pretty good motivator.
She will always be an inspiration to me.”
-Stacy Tilney, Former Store Buyer and Communications Director, Salem Witch Museum
“A few years ago, I mentioned to a Salem historian friend that I was about to be interviewed for a job at the Salem Witch Museum. He wished me luck and told me I would be very fortunate to work with Tina if I got the job. He was right! Not only does she know EVERYTHING that is going on at the museum, from the biggest policies to the smallest details, but she’s kind, compassionate, and funny to boot. Syncharitíria, Tina! ”
-Jill Christiansen, Assistant Education Director, Salem Witch Museum
“Tina is simply the BEST”
-Terri Ryback, Store Buyer, Salem Witch Museum
“Tina is one of the most selfless people I know”
-Jenny Connors, Chief Financial Officer, Salem Witch Museum
“The word love isn’t enough, the word respect isn’t enough to describe my feelings for Tina. I just adore her.”
-Biff Michaud, CEO, Salem Witch Museum
Friday, June 26
Michi Nishiura Weglyn: Interment Camp Survivor and Author of Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps
If you have visited the Salem Witch Museum, you may have seen the exhibit, Witches: Evolving Perceptions. In this exhibit, our museum engages with the historical phenomena of witch-hunting by presenting a formula that can be used to describe the pattern of behavior responsible for sparking a witch-hunt. This formula, “fear plus a trigger leads to a scapegoat,” is one important way of connecting the history of witch trials with contemporary experience. While we present three significant witch-hunts in twentieth-century American history, one of the most devastating was the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans in camps during World War II.
Though it was the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor that ultimately led to the forced internment of Japanese Americans, there had been increasing discrimination against Japanese and Asian immigrants in the United States since the mid-nineteenth century. This intolerance dates back to the 1860’s, when a massive recession in Japan led to a large influx of Japanese immigrants. As Japanese immigrants began to settle on the West Coast of the United States and took up jobs in agriculture and small business, public resentment increased. Eventually, legislation was put in place that made it illegal for Japanese Americans to own land, restricted citizenship, and limited further immigration from Asian countries. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the fear of these “alien” groups was triggered into wide-scale panic. In February 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of any person deemed a threat living in the West Coast.
For many years we have carried the incredible book Farewell to Manzanar in our museum store. The classic memoir from Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston recounts her family’s struggle to survive the indignities of forced detention in an American internment camp. This account inspired us to seek out stories of other Japanese Americans who survived unjust imprisonment during World War II. Thanks to densho.org, we have learned about several amazing women who have been incredible, impactful leaders in human rights movements, for Japanese Americans and others.
One such story is that of Michi Nishiura Weglyn, born in Stockton, California in 1926. Like many other Japanese immigrants, her parents were tenant farmers in Brentwood. Michi was interned along with her family in Arizona’s Gila River War Relocation Center in 1942. Life in internment camps was bleak, uncomfortable, and frequently humiliating. Given the rate of the mass internment and deportation, the government struggled to build self-sufficient living facilities in extremely isolated, underdeveloped, and harsh regions of the country. Many of these camps were surrounded by barbed-wire and had armed guards posted around the exterior perimeter. Families were forced to sleep in wood and tarpaper barracks, use large communal latrines, and were given daily food rations. Though educational facilities were eventually provided, many did not receive books or resources until months after their opening. An excellent student before incarceration (she received a citizenship award from the American Legion in 1940), Michi kept up her schooling at Gila River, and led both a Girl Scout troop and a young woman’s association.
On July 2, 1945, the exclusion order was finally rescinded. Leaving internment camps was a strange and challenging experience, as many had lost their homes and businesses during evacuation. Unlike many others, Michi was able to leave the internment camp to peruse her education in 1944, one year before the exclusion order was rescinded. Because of her academic excellence, Michi received a full scholarship to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts. However, after one year at college, a bout with tuberculosis ended her Mount Holyoke education. A few years later, a second round of tuberculosis again sent Michi to a hospital while she was attending Barnard College in New York City. It is ironic that tuberculosis was a major problem in concentration camps in the 1940s – see the link below – yet Michi did not come down with the infection until after she left Gila River.
Once recovered, Michi Nishiura made her home in New York City, where she met her husband Walter Weglyn, a German Jew who had escaped Nazi Germany in his teens. The couple married in 1950. For much of the 1950s and 60s, Michi Weglyn designed and created theatrical costumes, most notably for The Perry Como Show from 1957 to 1966.
It was in the 1960s that Weglyn began work on her book: Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps, which was published in 1976. Often considered “The Bible of the Redress Movement,” and giving its author the name “Mother of Redress,” Years of Infamy helped inspire the reparations movement – which culminated in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The act, which approved redress checks for Japanese Americans wrongly incarcerated during World War II, also codified that the internment policy was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The bill was supported by a majority of Democrats in Congress, while a majority of Republicans voted against it. It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan on August 10,1988. President Reagan opened the signing ceremony with these words: “We gather here today to right a grave wrong” and ended it by saying, “…the ideal of liberty and justice for all—that is still the American way.” Between 1990 and 1993, 82,219 former camp inmates, or their heirs, received reparations.
Michi Nishiura Weglyn continued her advocacy work for Japanese Americans and Japanese Peruvians, who were also taken from their homes by the U.S. government, throughout her life. She died in 1999 at the age of 72.
For further information, visit densho.org. “Densho documents the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II before their memories are extinguished. We offer these irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historic images and teacher resources, to explore principles of democracy, and promote equal justice for all.”
Also available at densho.org: Epidemics in American Concentration Camps: From the “White Plague” to Covid-19. Well worth reading.
Friday, May 29
Matilda Joslyn Gage: The Wonderful Woman of Oz
In 1898, the gifted storyteller Lyman Frank Baum sat in his living room regaling an attentive audience made-up of his sons and neighborhood children with the tale of a magical world found somewhere far away, so far, in fact, it was over the rainbow. When the children asked him the name of this fantastic world, Baum glanced around the room, his eyes eventually falling on the bottom of a filing cabinet marked “O-Z.” “Why,” Baum replied, “It is called the Land of Oz!” This story, born of one afternoon’s entertainment, inspired a book that is considered by many to be America’s first fairy tale.
Though today popular culture is saturated with a variety of different witch images, some beautiful, some haggard, some kind, and some wicked, prior to 1900, the witch was primarily one distinct figure; an old, evil, shrew. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries, witches were defined by the older beliefs that survived from the witch-hunting period. Witches were the stuff of nightmares, the villains of the story. While literature and folklore included powerful female characters such as good fairies, goddesses, and female spirits, it was not until the 1900 publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that America was introduced to its first good witch.
While we will never know what precisely inspired Baum to include these good witches in his story, it is well worth noting the women actively involved in the world of this imaginative writer. On November 9, 1882, L. Frank Baum married Maud Gage Baum. The couple met when Maud was a student at Cornell University in 1881. Maud is often described as an independent, even headstrong woman, who fervently supported her husband. Interestingly, Maud Gage was the daughter of Matilda Joslyn Gage. Though hers may be an unfamiliar name today, Gage was a trailblazing human rights activist in her time, advocating for women’s suffrage, Native American rights, and the abolitionist cause. As a young woman, she received an advanced education and attended the Clinton Liberal Institution in Clinton, New York. The Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation website describes her as, “Born with a hatred of oppression.” Gage attended the notorious National Women’s Rights Convention in Syracuse, New York in 1852, and cofounded the National Women Suffrage Association with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony in 1869. Her many accomplishments include working with Stanton to draft “The Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States,” holding the title of president of state and national suffrage organizations, and coediting the first three volumes of The History of Woman Suffrage with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Now recognized for her important work in the early feminist movement, the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation website states: “One of the most radical, far-sighted and articulate early feminists, Matilda Joslyn Gage was deliberately written out of history after her death in 1898 by an increasingly conservative suffrage movement.” Though the names Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony are well-known today, Matilda Joslyn Gage has been robbed of her recognition as a leading suffragette. While the connection between Matilda Joslyn Gage and her son-in-law may at first seem inconsequential, it is certainly worthy of considering how a passionate pioneer in women’s rights advocacy may have influenced the outlook of this nineteenth-century writer.
For more information about fascinating woman, visit the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation website: https://matildajoslyngage.org/
Friday April 24
Female Historians: Powerhouse History Detectives and Exceptional Writers
The historical writing about the Salem witch trials has a fascinating life of their own. It can be helpful to think of history as one long game of telephone—and it is the job of the historian to untangle fact from story. Each historian has their own “camp,” meaning their own perspectives and arguments. While historians of varying genders, ages, and backgrounds have made extremely important contributions to our historical understanding of the Salem witch trials, today we recognize the important work produced by female historians. These women writers have changed our understanding of the Salem witch trials, challenging us to look deeper, to keep searching, and never stop pursuing answers.
Marion Starkey- The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials
Published in 1949, Marion Starkey’s The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials was an extremely influential early account of the 1692 witch trials. Originally working as a newspaper editor and teacher at the Hampton Institute at the University of Connecticut at New London, Marion Starkey became interested in writing about the Salem witch trials after considering the atrocities perpetrated during the Holocaust. Her study focused on the motivations that led ordinary people to commit terrible acts of injustice and intolerance. Beginning her research in the Salem archives, Starkey became fascinated by the psychological behavior of the afflicted girls. Entering this body of scholarship, at a time when this topic was largely dominated by men, Starkey’s work was the first to argue that psychology should be used when examining these events. Reading this work today, it is certainly a reflection of its time, and many discoveries have been made since its writing. However, written in a clear, approachable style, The Devil in Massachusetts remained one of the principal books on the Salem witch trials for decades after its publication.
Elaine Breslaw- Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem
Elaine Breslaw is another extremely accomplished historian. She holds a PhD from the University of Maryland and worked as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library in New York, and then as a professor of early American history at Morgan State University. In her incredible research study Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem, Elaine Breslaw takes on the monumental challenge of constructing a biography of Tituba, the slave of Reverend Samuel Parris and first person to confess to witchcraft in 1692. Uncovering the story of Tituba presents one the most frustrating and intriguing mysteries for historians of the Salem witch trials. As Tituba was such a significant figure in the events of 1692, it is shocking to find historians know almost nothing about her life. Based on an extremely impressive research effort, Elaine Breslaw argues that evidence in a Barbadian plantation record suggests Tituba was of the Arawak tribe and lived in South America before arriving in Massachusetts Bay Colony. This book is divided into two sections; the first focuses on the early life of Tituba living in Barbados. In the second section, Breslaw describes Tituba’s life in Massachusetts, outlining the first accusations of witchcraft and her eventual confession. In this unique biography, Breslaw attempts to show how Tituba may have viewed the world, and argues her confession was in some ways an act of slave resistance against her master. Though some historians dispute this argument, this book was an incredibly influential project, offering major contributions to both women’s and witchcraft history.
Elaine Breslaw’s website can be found here: http://www.elainebreslaw.com/about/
Mary Beth Norton- In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692
The work of Mary Beth Norton dramatically impacted our understanding of the Salem witch trials. Norton is an extremely accomplished American historian. She received a PhD from Harvard University, with her doctoral dissertation winning a notable prize from the Society of American Historians in 1970. Norton is currently a professor of history at Cornell University and has received considerable academic recognition throughout her career. Her 2002 book In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692, offered a new and important perspective on the Salem witch trials, placing these events into the larger context of two decades of ongoing wars between Native Americans and colonial settlers. By placing the magistrates and accusers into this context, Norton is able to show how the political instability of a colony decimated by war could have directly impacted the actions of both the magistrates and afflicted. Additionally, by focusing on the lives and experiences of some of the young female accusers, Norton argues Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, combined with the limitations of a female living in the colony during this time, may have potentially impacted the behavior of the accusers during the Salem witch trials. These seamlessly constructed arguments offered a new window into understanding the lives of those involved in the largest witch trials in American history. Since its publication, In the Devil’s Snare has become a foundational text for the study of the Salem witch trials.
An interview with Mary Beth Norton can be found here:
Carol Karlsen- The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England
Today it seems obvious to observe that most of those accused of witchcraft in colonial New England were women and these accusations were likely connected to contemporary social perceptions of gender. However, Carol Karlsen’s book The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, was the first to clearly define the relationship between gender and witchcraft in colonial New England. This work is particularly distinct, as Karlsen observed that it was not just poor, aggressive, or argumentative women that were accused, but women who inherited property were also common targets for witchcraft charges. In an extremely unique argument, Karlsen observes that women were often accused of witchcraft because their inheritance threatened to disrupt the transfer of land from father to son, leading to a larger disruption in the Puritan gender ideology. Carol Karlsen holds a PhD from Yale University and is a Professor Emerita of History and Museum Studies at the University of Michigan. She has received the American Council of Learned Societies Award and highly prestigious fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. This work is another extremely important study, and is considered an incredibly valuable addition to the study of New England witchcraft.
Marilynne Roach– The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege
Marilynne Roach is currently one of the eminent scholars of the Salem witch trials. Coming to a historical career from a non-traditional route, Roach was initially an art student at Mass Art in Boston, she became fascinated by the history of the Salem witch trials after visiting Salem in the 1970’s. This interest sparked a lifelong research journey, ultimately resulting in some of the most detailed and comprehensive books on this subject. Her book The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege is an almost unbelievable undertaking. As the title suggests, this work provides a day-by-day account of the year 1692, and continues the story into the next several years. Her second book, Six Women of Salem is another exceptionally detailed book which follows the stories of six women involved in the Salem witch trials—showing the different perspectives of the accusers and accused. Most recently, Marilynne Roach was a member of the team that verified the location of the execution site used during the Salem witch trials. Though the site of the hangings had been speculated for years, and Roach published an article arguing for the precise location in October of 1997, this article received little response and the issue was largely dropped. It was not until 2010 when a group of researches, titled the Gallows Hill Group, finally formally verified the site. This group was comprised of Elizabeth Peterson, the director of the Witch House, Professors Emerson Baker, Benjamin Ray, and Peter Sablock, filmmaker Tom Phillips, and historian Marilynne Roach. In 2016, the Gallows Hill Group formally published their findings, confirming the location originally identified by Marillyne Roach in 1997. This time, the research received considerable public response. On July 19, 2017 the city of Salem erected a memorial on the spot known as Proctor’s Ledge. These research findings are listed in Archaeology Magazine’s list of the world’s most important discoveries of that year.
For more information about Marilynne Roach, visit her website:
An excellent article about the discovery of Proctor’s Ledge can be found here:
These are just five women who have made significant contributions to this body of knowledge. Other incredible female historians and authors include: Margo Burns, Francis Hill, Gretchen Adams, Kathleen Kent, Katherine Howe, Stacy Schiff, and Maryse Conde. These women have opened this subject, inviting us to reconsider history, challenge preconceived notions, and remind us that the imagination is an incredible tool when trying to understand the past.
Friday, March 27
Mary Spencer, Elizabeth Peabody, Sarah Parker Remond, and Caroline Emmerton: Four Outstanding Women of Salem
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
Tituba Indian: A Silenced Voice
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
Sarah Good, Susannah Martin, and Martha Carrier: Three Defiant Women of the Witchcraft Trials
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.