“Crazed in Her Understanding”: Women’s Woes During the Salem Witch Trials

Studying the lives of colonial women can be a difficult undertaking. Ferreting out basic information, from a birthday to a maiden name, is often impossible. This is particularly challenging when one comes across a woman who is described as mentally unwell. What does it mean to be “crazed in her understanding,” “melancholy,” or “distracted”? In this presentation, the Salem Witch Museum’s Education Department discusses several women involved in the Salem witch trials who appear to have struggled with mental health issues. The presentation considers how these records paint a picture of each of these seventeenth-century women, providing clues about their personal struggles.