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Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials

Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials

4.1 6
by Marilynne K. Roach

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Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been “afflicted,” 32 had officially


Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been “afflicted,” 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbors, and 255 ordinary people had been inexorably drawn into that ruinous and murderous vortex, and this doesn't include the religious, judicial, and governmental leaders. All this adds up to what the Rev. Cotton Mather called “a desolation of names.”

The individuals involved are too often reduced to stock characters and stereotypes when accuracy is sacrificed to indignation. And although the flood of names and detail in the history of an extraordinary event like the Salem witch trials can swamp the individual lives involved, individuals still deserve to be remembered and, in remembering specific lives, modern readers can benefit from such historical intimacy. By examining the lives of six specific women, Marilynne Roach shows readers what it was like to be present throughout this horrific time and how it was impossible to live through it unchanged.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Roach (The Salem Witch Trials) makes history more accessible in her latest book on the infamous mass hysteria that took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692–1693, resulting in the executions of 20 supposed "witches," and the accusations of about 200. Roach successfully constructs first-person narratives from the perspectives of six real Salem women—both accusers and accused. This style of narrative provides an intimacy with the Salem people without feeling too fictionalized or overdone. Roach draws on a number of primary and secondary documents to illuminate every detail of the Salem witch trials, while duly paying respect to the victims of these horrific trials. She lays out the facts, but avoids speculation or further analysis. This book is easily digestible even for those who stray away nonfiction, yet readers still reap the benefits of Roach's thorough researched and expertise on the subject. (Sept.)
From the Publisher

InfoDad Blog, 10/10/13

“Roach shows how thoroughly she has researched her subject…while also giving modern readers something to think about in our own days of social and political witch hunts. Six Women of Salem…will provide a greater sense of the real-world lives of those who engaged in and were victimized by those events.”

San Francisco Book Review/Sacramento Book Review, 10/7/13

“The book is super detailed and fantastically informative on the subject…An eye-opening piece of work…Each page drips with an honest and impartial narrative…Roach has done a great job in honoring the memories of these women with a tasteful and harmonious book.”

Kirkus Reviews, 9/15/13

“[Full of] the author's deep knowledge of virtually every man, woman and child affected by the trials in this bizarre period.”

Examiner.com, 9/27/13

“Roach delivers a historically intimate narrative that gives readers a front row seat to this desperate and dangerous time in history.”—Examiner.com, 9/27

Roanoke Times, 10/27/13

“A focused look at the lives of six of the accused, their accusers, and their neighbors who were part of a dark period in American history.”

Leavenworth Times, 10/29/13

“A well written novel approach to the witch trials worth the time taken while you await the trick-or-treaters this Halloween.”

Open Letters Monthly, 10/1/13

“Immediately immerses its readers in the events of that horrible, vertiginous year, a year which almost certainly started off as mere pranking by some mean-spirited girls but then grew into something much blacker and more complicated. Roach immerses her readers through her customary vivid, forceful writing…The seriously inquisitive now have another great book on the subject.”

ForeWord, Winter 2013

“[Roach's] fact-based insight into these women's lives, along with the moments she breaks into short, fictionalized scenes, puts these lives into perspective, allowing readers to connect with the events in a way not afforded in other accounts of this period…Roach's work will shed new light on the Salem witch trials, not only by showing how the accusers may have truly believed they were bewitched and tortured, but also by making the innocent women come to life.”

Library Journal, 12/1/2013

Kirkus Reviews
Roach (The Salem Witch Trials: A Day by Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, 2004) explores the lives of six women involved in the Salem witch trials. The author's deep knowledge of virtually every man, woman and child affected by the trials in this bizarre period tends to get in her way during the narrative. More than 200 people were accused of witchcraft in the mass hysteria, precipitated by a few pre-pubescent girls who suddenly developed seizures and blamed local women. Curiously, many of the afflicted had feuded with the accusers' families. Tituba, a Caribbean slave, was accused and fearfully told them what they wanted to hear: that she'd signed Satan's book. Then she named names, since they expected it, feeding the fury. Anyone with a grudge could suddenly remember an evil eye or a sudden death and cast blame. Roach gives too much background on superfluous accusations that really didn't affect the six primary subjects. The specially called Court of Oyer and Terminer asked each of the accused the same questions over and over, ignoring pleas and even proofs of innocence. Hearings were distracted as victims collapsed upon seeing the accused. One girl was found to have brought pins to stab herself and blame the accused; no doubt this was not an isolated incident. Twenty-eight were condemned. In 1711, 22 of those were pardoned, way too late for those who had already been executed. Had Roach been stricter in adhering to the stories of the six women, without naming all the other accused, the book would have provided better insight into a strange period. As it is, there is just too much information, too many asides, too much confusion and too many victims.
Library Journal
From early 1692 until mid-1693, accusations of witchcraft, based on fear, prejudice, resentment, and unexplainable illnesses, affected hundreds of lives in and around Salem, MA. After 20 executions, changing public sentiment caused officials to desist, and the frenzy abated significantly. Independent historian and illustrator Roach has produced a book similar to her The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege but that focuses intently on the lives of six women of varied backgrounds—four accused, one accuser, and one mother of an accuser: Bridget Bishop, Mary English, Rebecca Nurse, Tituba, Mary Warren, and Ann Putnam—each trapped in her role by fear and pressure. With minimal analysis or criticism, Roach animates information woven together from court records, trial notes, diaries, vital records, sermon notes, and family lore in a successful attempt to personalize their lives, drawing the reader away from commonly believed stereotypes and sensational folklore. Brief imagined passages by Roach on what individuals might have thought and experienced introduce each chapter. VERDICT The book often has a tedious level of detail and can confuse, yet these qualities mirror the tangled and turbulent period itself and effectively immerse readers in its terrifying reality. For consideration by both popular and professional Salem witch trial enthusiasts.—Margaret Kappanadze, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY

Product Details

Da Capo Press
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6.36(w) x 9.04(h) x 1.25(d)

Meet the Author

Marilynne K. Roach earned a BFA from Massachusetts College of Art and works as both a historian and illustrator. She has drawn illustrations and written how-to and travel articles for the Boston Globe, has lectured to groups ranging from kindergarten to senior citizens, and has written several scholarly articles on various aspects of the witch scare.
She is a lifelong resident of Watertown, Massachusetts.

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Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
BertEdens More than 1 year ago
Many thanks to Perseus Books Group / Da Capo Press for providing this eGalley to me through NetGalley. Although it was provided at no cost, I am under no obligation to give a positive review. Growing up, I was very fortunate to have my maternal grandmother and her husband work in the tourism industry in Williamsburg, Virginia. I got an early exposure to colonial America to go along with my always strong love of history in general. Naturally, I have also been interested in the happenings in Salem, Massachusetts, knowing it can be very difficult to separate fact from fiction from urban legend. Enter this wonderful book by Marilynne K. Roach. It should be noted before beginning that this is not Roach’s first rodeo when it comes to scholarly work on the Salem witch trials. She’s well-respected in that area as a quick Google search will reveal. That said, what Roach brings to the table with this offering is humanization of the accused as well as providing a smaller scope of the trials. Rather than looking at the trials in a larger overview, she takes six women accused of being witches and gets into extraordinary detail about their lives. With each woman, she digs into their family, genealogy and the events surrounding the accusations against them and subsequent trial. This works very well to humanize the accused, as you can see them as individual persons, not just numbers or statistics. Additionally, Roach makes an effort to get into each woman’s head to try and see the happenings through their eyes. This further brings the subject to a more personal level. The only downside of the book is that it does get tedious at times. It took me a bit before I really got rolling, once I finished the first woman’s story. Then I got into a flow with the remaining stories. But considering this is first and foremost a scholarly / academic work, not a piece of fiction, I am perfectly willing to sacrifice a fun read for a historically accurate read. In that, Roach is outstanding. I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in history, be it Colonial America, women’s studies, witchcraft, law, whatever. It certainly seems to be very well done. Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For the most part, I really enjoyed Six Women of Salem. The book gave a very detailed look at the Salem Witch Trials from women who were involved in the trials. The beginning of the book was the only part of the book that I wasn’t fond of. Part one explained who all six of the women were, where they came from, and where they are in Salem around the time that the trials began. It gave some good initial information to know about the trials, such as disputes with the Church of England and the Puritans, and the conflicts between the New England colonies and the French-Canadians/American Indians. Though it gave very extensive information about their family, such as their lives or their occupations, that really didn’t relate to the witch trials at all. Even the information about the women got long and boring for a while. Though, it did set up a lot of good information for the rest of the book that was very helpful. I liked how Marilynne K. Roach chose a wide range of women, because it gave a very broad look at the trials, from accusers to accused.  One thing I loved most about this book were the little stories at the beginning of each chapter. My favorite was from Tituba in Part One, describing her boarding a ship to be put into slavery. “No one comes to the shore. No one rescues them. How sharp the memory of the last day of freedom, of a normal life. How painful the last memory of home” (Roach 63).  The second part of the book was more interesting than the first, as it kept you on your toes. You wouldn't want to stop after starting the second part. I enjoyed it because it gave an interesting, engaging, and extensive look at the trials that most people wouldn't even think when it comes to the trials. Roach made you feel like you were in Salem at the time, feeling what these women were suffering through and seeing how dark this period in American history was. Though the first part may be hard to get through, I would recommend this book to anyone doing a research project because it is full of facts that were very helpful in understanding the Salem Witch Trials. 
Gina04 More than 1 year ago
I loved reading about Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, Mary English, Ann Putnam, Tituba and Mary Warren and their lives in Salem. It was a hard book to put down
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a highschool sophomore and I chose to read this book for my research project. Overall, personally, the book was really interesting and well written. Although there were some parts of the story that were a bit dry and boring,  overall it was pretty good. I liked how Roach gave the story from different perspectives (accused and accusers)  rather than making the story based off of the accused. I also really liked how she gave background information on the trials rather than just jumping right into it. The one thing that I didn't really like about the book is how the first  section of it was really boring and not as interesting as the rest of the parts. I highly recommend this book for someone who knows nothing about the Salem Witch Trials but wants to know more  because when I first started reading these books I knew nothing but when I finished the book I could tell a story. Another thing that I really did like about the book was how it was based off actual events and how the author actually did her research before writing the book. The thing that I mostly liked about the book was how she added her  thoughts into the book, rather than making it all non-fiction. I give this book 4 stars due to its originality and it’s greatness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago