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The Devil in the Shape of a Woman

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The Devil in the Shape of a Woman

"The Devil in the Shape of a Woman" was an excellent book that focuses on the unjusts that have been done to women in the name of witchcraft in Salem, and many other areas as well. It goes over statistical data surrounding gender, property inherence, and the perceptions of women in colonial New England. Unlike the other studies of colonial witchcraft, this book examines it as a whole, other then the usual Salem outbreaks in the late 17th century.

To completely understand the history of New England witchcraft you have to understand the role of colonial women. The author of this book, Carol Karlsen, used a lot of Secondary and primary sources to support her thesis. She uses first hand accounts of witch trials. Which I found very interesting to read. Such as her use of Cotton Mathers personal writings. She also used court records as one of her sources to writing this book. These records showed the detailed court proceedings, depositions, and court rulings.

The book begins with a brief history of the colonial witchcraft. Each Chapter is structured with an orientation, presentation of evidence, and her conclusion. A good example of her structure is in chapter two on the demographics of witchcraft; here she summarizes the importance of age and marital status in witchcraft accusations. Following this she provides a good transition into chapter three in the final sentence of chapter two, "A closer look of the material conditions and behavior of accused reveals other characteristics--Intimately related to their sex, age, and marital status, that set witches apart from other older women in their community."(page 76)

In substaining her claim about the importance and the interconnection of colonial womanhood and witchcraft. She examines the colonial beliefs on witchcraft and the rampant misogyny of the period.

In this study she addresses the accused and the accusers, the young, the old, the poor, and the cute. In chapter seven she constructs an interesting analysis and a statistically significant interpretation of those females who were possessed, and why these particular females responded to their possession in Puntan society. In order to prove her case she used evidence associated with those who were the accusers and the accused during the witchcraft trials. On the whole, she proved that women who were out of the social norms of colonial society were more likely to be suspect of witchcraft. In Puntan New England this was mainly non-married women, widows, and non-conformist females. These distinctive behaviors and demographics were seen as potential threat to New England Society, especially during a period of great change or social upheaval.

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