Puritanical Revenge: The Bias of Gender in the Salem Witch Trials

Presenter: Madeline Finney ’20 | Major: English & History

Project Mentor: Megan Boccardi, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History

Abstract: In 1692, a series of witch trials and executions wreaked havoc on the Puritan community of Salem, Massachusetts. This presentation delves into the causation of the witch trials, arguing that the gendered expectations of Puritan behavior served to draw attention to women who did not adhere to society’s expectations. These women then became the targets of the witch trials. My research focused on six accused individuals and their outcomes. Careful analysis of primary sources including biographical information, trial testimonies, and arrest warrants revealed that each of the six people accused in these cases violated the strict gendered expectations of good behavior, such as multiple marriages, poverty, or behaving without restraint. Because these individuals could not be punished for not adhering to social expectations, they were convicted as witches and even murdered for their societal crimes.