Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England

Overview

"A pioneer work in . . . the sexual structuring of society. This is not just another book about witchcraft."—Edmund S. Morgan, Yale University
Confessing to "Familiarity with the Devils," Mary Johnson, a servant, was executed by Connecticut officials in 1648. A wealthy Boston widow, Ann Hibbens, was hanged in 1656 for casting spells on her neighbors. In 1662, Ann Cole was "taken with very strange Fits" and fueled an outbreak of witchcraft accusations in Hartford a generation before the notorious events in Salem ...

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The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England

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Overview

"A pioneer work in . . . the sexual structuring of society. This is not just another book about witchcraft."—Edmund S. Morgan, Yale University
Confessing to "Familiarity with the Devils," Mary Johnson, a servant, was executed by Connecticut officials in 1648. A wealthy Boston widow, Ann Hibbens, was hanged in 1656 for casting spells on her neighbors. In 1662, Ann Cole was "taken with very strange Fits" and fueled an outbreak of witchcraft accusations in Hartford a generation before the notorious events in Salem took place. More than three hundred years later the question still haunts us: Why were these and other women likely witches? Why were they vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft? In this work Carol Karlsen reveals the social construction of witchcraft in seventeenth-century New England and illuminates the larger contours of gender relations in that society.

Examines a society in which fears of witchery helped reinforce the status quo and reflected deeper sexual, religious and economic tensions.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Beth Norton
“A remarkable achievement. The 'witches' come alive in this book, not as stereotypes, but as real women living in a society that suspected and feared their independence and combativeness.”
Library Journal
Karlsen has written an intriguing social history of witchcraft in Puritan New England 1620-1725. She unearths detailed evidence which demonstrates that prosecuted and accused witches generally were older, married women who had violated the religious and/or economic Puritan social hierarchy. Beyond their childbearing years and sometimes the recipients of inheritances, these women threatened the male-dominated social order and drew the ire of middle-aged men who accused them of witchcraft. A well-written, provocative addition to the recent scholarship on New England witchcraft.David Szatmary, Univ. of Washington Extension, Seattle
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393317596
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/28/1998
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 267,787
  • Lexile: 1570L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol F. Karlsen is professor of history at the University of Michigan.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2007

    Great scholarly work!

    This is a great book, heavily ladened in facts... but that is a good thing in a scholarly work such as this since is lends credence to her arguments. She argues that women accused of witchcraft tended to be older, married women who violated (in some way) the economic or social norms of colonial New England. If you are interested in the witchcraft trial in New England and have always wondered why the majority of accused witches were women, then this is the perfect book for you. I really enjoyed reading it and I think you will too!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2006

    Full of Facts

    If you are looking for a book specifically on the facts of witches trials, get thisbook. otherwise, be wary. The book is so loaded with facts that you wonder if the author actually wrote this or if she just compiled data. A great book if you are writing a research paper, but not, if you are like me, a good choice for an extra credit book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2009

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