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tv   Book Discussion on Six Women of Salem  CSPAN  November 8, 2015 8:00am-8:41am EST

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landmark cases is available for $8.95 plus shipping. get your copy. over 200 people were accused of witchcraft throughout the massachusetts colony. the hysteria driven campaign resulted in the salem witch trials and the execution of 20 people. in her book six women of sailing the author profiles the accused and their accusers. this was from 2013.
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[applause] marilynne: i'm sure it. i will use the box. thank you. thank you very much. my new book, six women of salem focuses on individuals whose experiences are a cross-section of what happened to people during the witch trials of 1692. of the 6, 5 were accused, two were hanged, one escaped. one was the richest woman in salem, and the other owned nothing, not even herself. they are rebecca nurse, bridget bishop, mary english, and n putnam, tituba and mary warren. they had different opinions of what was going on.
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rebecca nurse was married to a farmer. rebecca not only had an extended and supportive family working tirelessly on her behalf but dozens of neighbors who petition the court to insist on her good reputation. far from being an outsider, she was a full member of the salem church. even so, she would be put to death. bridget bishop does not seem to have many if any supporters. none of the paperwork indicates her husband did anything for her. she had been suspected and arrested for alleged witchcraft before at which time she survived the charge. in 1692 she was not as lucky. the first tried, found guilty, and the first to hang. mary english will be remembered as a grand lady. she had owned property. her husband philip owned and controlled that property. he was a successful merchant, in salem's top 1%. he was also french speaking from the isle of jersey. one of great britain's channel
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islands, and served himself protestant, people would be wary of the frenchman wondering if they may might side with catholic french canadian forces who continually threatened to invade new england. and putnam, one of the most active of the afflicted girls, she strongly suspected rebecca nurse of trying to bewitch her and her family. she was haunted of the ghosts of her dead babies. by the deceased children of her dead sister's. she was about to have her eighth child. the first to be accused, tituba, protested the accusation and denied the charge but became afflicted. perhaps as a defense. acceptance of a spirit world was a given. she was referred to an indian by her white contemporaries and presumably came from the caribbean. mary warren lacked all prospects, facing a bleak prospect as hired help. although her father and a
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younger sister were still alive, they do not seem to have spoken on her behalf. she was afflicted and accused and then the most of the imminent accuser. every choice you made led to a disaster. witches in common believe were ordinary people lured into a life of spiritual crime. working magical harm from spite for power, even at the expense of their own souls. that is what people defined as witchcraft and what too many thought was happening when misfortunes mountain and -- mounted and became too much. smallpox, privateers, frontier invasions, people being kidnapped, the economy, and the invisible world, evil spirits, the devils minions making as much trouble as possible. it became painfully obvious the
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condemned had not been in league with the devil. there was a great deal of folk magic going on. although it was against doctrine to meddle with magic, some did. certain customs were things everybody did perpetuate is so generations that the idea that my mother did it and it was all right to do it. folk magic included charms toward away someone else's magic. the witch cake was presumed to be the thing to reveal the one harming the minister's daughter, which only inflame the rising panic. this is her only recorded association with magic. folk believe accepted the believe magic was a neutral power, and effective nature. charms and spells toward off evil, help heal a wound, or to discern the future in uncertain times. some were known for these skills. ministers had to remind their
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congregations good spirits would not interfere in such a way and the charms and spells seem to work, that the work of trouble of evil spirits. humans lack the ability to do these things. angels would not do them. who was left but devils? devils had a way of lowering victims. harmless tricks that ensnared the foolish person until they found themselves involved in serious wrongs. their weaknesses the trap that caught them. that was the general believe though most assumed it would not happen to them. they would discern the truth of the situation. the judges certainly thought they knew what they were doing and they could interpret what
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was happening before their eyes. ordinarily neighborhood suspicions faster but did not reach the courts. some harbored suspicions about rebecca nurse's mother that extended to her back's generation. ordinarily people making an official accusation had to put up money or goods to prosecute to show the seriousness of the charge. this was overlooked many times in 92. ministers recommended caution and an examination of one's own soul, magistrates dismissed the offered evidence and accused found themselves open to defamation suits. mary english's mother sued and insulted neighbor. not all early records have survived but between 1638 and
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1691 120 individuals were accused of witchcraft in new england as a whole. the evidence was generally an art that with a long suspected neighbor followed by crop failure, livestock illness, or death. there were more cases for a number of those turned out to be only quakers. in 1692 some of the accusers were quakers. the mall and shattuck family believed rigid bishop bewitch their children. some of the accused were in court more than once. the records indicate 121 pre-1692 trials involving 85 women and 36 men. of these 121 cases, 38 were
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slander suits brought by the suspects against their accusers. the 83 actual witch trials resulted in 11-17 executions. plus three guilty verdicts reversed. little about the panic was ordinary. most especially the presence of victims like mary warren convulsing in public in the courtroom.
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the matter appeared to be a public emergency at first rather than the neighborly dispute, appeared to be a plot by the devil to take over new england, even if the french king aspired to do so to accomplish this in real life. unlike other such outbursts the 1692 panic spread to other communities. it dragged on from the cold of winter through a drought ridden summer into fall with more suspects surfacing after every arrest.
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from late 1691 through 1693, 191 people were suspected of witchcraft in massachusetts and 27 were named in passing. 164 appeared in legal papers. in addition, 70 people including three of our six were considered to be afflicted by witches, and seven of the afflicted actually died. the real deaths proving the suspicions. in contrast, 250 people signed petitions in favor of neighbors, and made statements on their
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behalf. courts tried 52 defendants and found 30 guilty of the charge of witchcraft and hangs 19 including rebecca nurse and bridget bishop. the majority of the trials occurred in the first few months of 1693 when the panic already subsided and spectral evidence was no longer accepted by the courts. most of the trials were held in salem. capital crimes where the governor's counsel acted as a higher court. in 1692 with a restructuring of the government and accused packed into the jails of three counties, governor fitz ordered
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a temporary court of order which convened in salem. it was less trouble to send the judges and clerks to salem than to bring someone he suspects and witnesses to boston. the legislature established the superior court consisting of the same judges. this court convened in 1693 at salem. three were found guilty and none of them would hang. the most unusual part of the panic was the fact the authorities eventually admitted their terrible mistakes, only the third time the history of western witch trials this had happened. the tragedy is too often
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remembered as a spooky cliché or as symbolic of misery caused by the other witchcraft cases when those more damaging episodes are forgotten. the stereotype recounted as an example of how other people could go wrong, not like the shining's examples of human progress that we are. the point of six women of salem to personalize the tragedy, to focus on a few specific individuals, how the events affected the people involved,
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living individuals with lives before everything seemed to go wrong and to show what their lives were like after the crisis passed if they survived. despite the centuries and different lives i tried to get inside their minds and see through their eyes. what did it feel like to be there and enter that part of our history? what was it like to be convinced invisible evil was attacking you, your family to be convinced that some neighbor, who constantly rubbed you the wrong way was possibly aiming their malice see -- their malice or killing your mother with magic? but was it like to be accused of something you knew was not true? what was it like to be accused of a crime and wonder if you had done something wrong. had somehow been lured into a greater wrongdoing. it was so easy to do the devil's work. what was it like to find your mother or wife accused of horrible crimes, and realize
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other people believed the accusations. it was like to hope for rescue and have hope snatched away? and attempted to see through the eyes and minds of the different characters brings up the question, how would i react in a comparable situation. that is the talk. i would like to read a section from the book if i may. it is factual, i back up everything i can within notes which you can look at in the end and see if you agree with what i concluded. i preface the chapters with fictional works where i try to think it what it must have been like. i would like to read the part about june 10, 1692. bridget bishop has passed the days after her trial in a fog of fear and theory. the official word arrived, tomorrow she would hang. the order had arrived from boston and everything was brady if she wished to settle her soul. this was the time to do it. she does not sleep before the
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ninth. hearing the chorus of guilty made her dizzy. none of this had anything to do with her yet she understood the words and knew what they meant. all of those neighbors in their stupid fears, witnesses coming out of the woodwork, remembering old slides, magnifying their suppositions. she know she is no witch but helpless to prove it. some other person has tried to console her. others are afraid to be near her as if her bad luck would rub off. she takes a look at the room, all eyes on her once again and walks towards the door. in the prison yard, they unlock and remove her shackles. the lightness feels wonderful
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even if it means a step closer to the gallows. the men grasp her elbows and lift her into a card. the sheriff, too young for the job is mounted. lesser officers carry their black staffs of office. they try to look formal but none of them have done this before and some look nervous. i am going to die and they look nervous. hands tied, she braces against the side of the card standings of the crowd can see her and be sure she is gotten rid of. the gate swings open and there are people swarming the street for a look at her. they see her staring. the horse starts forward and the
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card creaks into motion as the procession moves into the street. a man works to clear the way. the walking guards, then onlookers follow. she scans the crowd for a friendly face, a sympathetic face but cannot find any. her associates have been arrested. where is that husband of hers? she does not want her child to see her like this. what sort of future does the child face now in the eyes of the neighbors? they proceed slowly through the town, southwest down the peninsula, pass the meeting house. past the town home, facing backwards she sees the town receiving away from her, a familiar couple stand next to their house enjoying the crowd. they look satisfied, please at what they consider justice done. another family with a dead child they blame on her. what about her dead children? did they think they were the only family to suffer such a loss? she things of her granddaughter and hopes she will not see what is about to happen.
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shrieks pierce the crowd. the afflicted girls are nearby. they would not miss the chance to see their handiwork. the cart lurches right and begins to head down. how far are they taking me, she wonders. all the staring eyes, she wishes it would end. her life will end first. the low tide grows stronger as they head to the north river where a stream flowing the hill before them cut the channel of freshwater into the salt tide. it becomes lost in the river and harbor and the cb on. -- and the sea beyond. they have taken her this way before for the hearing in the village but this time the procession turns up the path into a common pasture. the hangman wait there under trees.
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the man get her down from the card and onto the runs of the ladder leaning against the tree. she struggles not to tripp on her petticoats. the shifting masks of the curious and the excited, they standby. someone studies her on the latter while someone ties a cord around her legs. modesty, she thinks. the sheriff is speaking, reading the death warrant that makes what he is about to order legal. the crowd quiets. bridget bishop, wife of edward bishop of salem, indicted and arraigned upon five several indictments for using and exercising acts of witchcraft in and upon the bodies of abigail williams, putnam, mercy lewis and elizabeth hubbard. their bodies were hurt,
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consumed, wasted and tormented. >> what nonsense for those girls are here now and look anything but wasted and consumed. in the name of their majesties, the sheriff continues, but in the hours of 8:00 and 12:00 to conduct bridget to the place of edgy fusion and caused her to be hanged by the neck until she is dead. then somebody else's talking. the ministers look like grows. a few of the onlookers seemed disgusted. she recognizes the troublemaking
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quaker who blames her for her brat's death. strangle shouts and shrieks punctuate the prayer where the so-called afflicted huddle together. two young women, as bridget turns to see one on the ground rolling in the dust. jacobs, all jacobs with one of his walking sticks. the devil is present. will they never quit their nonsense? then something rough drags over her head, the news. the hangman is on the latter beside her. he pulls the rope and secures it. she feels a cold sweat. she tamps down rising panic. she will not give her persecutors the satisfaction. she will not plead or cry or act a fool. she looks out towards the sea. she hears the goals cry. she sees a flash as the birds wheeled.
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then the bag comes down over her face. stifling her breath in the heat. gleam's of daylight. a man's voice yells. her feet jerk out from under her and the terrible pressure slams into her throat and the base of her skull. then there is no support, nothing to hold onto. she strains against the cords, tries to kick her feet to find purchase but there is nothing. her head feels as if it will explode. darkness rushes towards her. she is vaguely aware she is
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soiling herself but pain overcomes embarrassment. her consciousness is one great shout of no and then, and then. thank you. [applause] if you could point out who is talking because i cannot see who is out there. >> does anybody have a question now? any questions? >> i have a question. what happened to the bodies? marilynne: traditionally felons are left hanging as an example. then buried near the gallows. a number of people's families traditionally took the bodies home to give them a decent burial. we don't know exactly. they may still be wherever that was. if the frost and the grass haven't worn them away. they may have been taken by the families. rebecca nurse presumably was taking -- taken to her property. george jacob to his.
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there were complaints from the families afterwards for reparations and how their ancestors were treated. there were no complaints about how the bodies were disposed of. so i don't know. >> can you speak to how the legislature -- in 1706, kind of began an effort to pardon them? marilynne: after things cool down a bit and people would talk about it, some people who had been found guilty but not hanged because the panic ended, there would have been more hangings but october was the quiet month that year. they drew back and they put everything on hold until they could get word from england what to do. the jails were still full so they proceeded. no one else was hanged. people who did survive this had this guilty verdict hanging over their heads and they didn't want
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something to start again. they would petition the legislature mainly to have their names cleared so they would not get hauled off or be shame associated with the family. finally the governor reversed the guilty verdict and clear the names of the people who petitioned. after that there was a committee to make restitution to people who had suffered. mainly reimbursing for jail bills and things like that. yes? >> was there any punishment administered today. it amazes me these people had to know. it would have haunted their conscious if nothing else. marilynne: at least through most of it they convince themselves of what they were saying but there would be no second thoughts. massachusetts had a public fast
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day where people attend services and pray as a public apology for whatever has gone wrong, to apologize to god. witchcraft was one of the things they were apologizing for. samuel who had been one of the judges stood up in his meeting house and his minister read a personal apology from him. a number of the jurors of that summer wrote a statement that seems to be associated with that year saying they were sorry that with the information they had at the time it seemed right. now they don't think so. samuel parish apologize to the family of rebecca nurse but they weren't listening to anything at
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that point. there was no legal reparation but i think there must've been a lot of bad neighborhood feelings that went down several generations. >> i was interested in your recounting of bridget bishop. you didn't say anything about her face or her feelings about god. was that a deliberate decision on your part? can you speak about the face of the victim? marilynne: i'm not sure what she thought. i know rebecca nurse was a fully communing member of the church. she seems to have kept her faith. she knew she was innocent. partly because they knew it
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wasn't true but also because line was something you are not supposed to do and you shouldn't lie, you shouldn't die with a lie on your lips and face the almighty by lying. they knew they were witches. even though she wasn't a full member of the church, which took experience, they refuse to live. that right there showed
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fortitude with their faith. >> the trial somehow caught fire. people think that the witches were burned but they were actually hangings and one individual was pressed to death. how did it take fire so fast? it ended abruptly. what caused the in so quickly? marilynne: as somebody pointed out it was a perfect storm of things going wrong at the same time. it was all the different pressures from the outside like the war with france, canada was invading. there was smallpox. the economy was awful. the government was in disarray. think of that.
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[laughter] they had lost. they did not have a legal government. they got a new charter from england. they had to rewrite the laws to conform with english law which allowed for the pressing. i think it was neighborhood animosity and simmering suspicions with whatever the economic, and the war, and the outside pain together. i can't say what specifically caused it but everything seemed to prove they were, and it snowballed. once one of the suspects started to confess, tituba said there were other which is out there. now they started to wonder who is that one? people spared confessing, someone would say they
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remembered hearing the clerk talk about william and mary at the beginning and they didn't know what happened after that but somewhere in there they confessed. they were scared about it. once they confessed and said there are witches people wanted to know who the rest were. the trial got so out of hand. feelings turned. the families of the accused for the most part, some suspected their own wives. the other side started to be heard and they put everything on hold in october and only resumed in the following winter because the gaels were so full. at that time they did not accept spectral evidence. if they said they saw a spirit, that is not evidence because the
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devil can make you think that sort of thing. they should have thought of that all along of course. >> i was wondering if you'd talk about your reasons for picking these women specifically. they invited you to explore or whether you found certain individuals compelling. marilynne: their experiences do cover things conveniently. there is often back story to them. genealogical information and court records showing stuff so you know what they were doing before the trials. except in the case of mary warren. she said a lot during the trial.
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then she disappears. you get a back story. so they had lives before presumably before and after. the night of information i could find to make them seem real, and the variety. >> does anybody know what happened after the hysteria subsided? marilynne: she is in jail for a year and a day according to the record. samuel parish did not want her back. he was embarrassed she belonged to him and was the first to confess even though it was just been. he didn't want her back. however it can pay the jail bills gets to keep her. somebody bought her. we don't know who. it was presumably somebody in eastern massachusetts because an early chronicler mentions she
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made statements about being beaten at one time. she said this after the trial. we really don't know where she went. unfortunately. >> you cite a lot of sources here but there is this belief out there that a lot of the accusations were due to financial gain being in the background. your thoughts on that? marilynne: the idea that if you accuse somebody and you get to keep their land is not true. i don't think there was any immediate financial gain. they may have had quarrels over things before that but the confiscations that you hear
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about where to pay for court fees and gel bills, and through supposedly the possessions of a convicted felon to be captain reserve and not scattered among the descendents. so the government can take their share of what is owed them. but you didn't get the neighbors farm. you are not going to get their farm. so don't do it. [laughter] >> you mentioned the spectral evidence was not traditionally good evidence and yet the court used it. how did they get away with that? marilynne: it was used before but the fact is the unusual thing about salem's case was there would be convulsing witnesses who were being
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tortured by entities. from the witches body. and your soul steps out and smack somebody around and then gets back in again. the afflicted were cooperating each other with the spectral evidence, that could not be trusted, even at the beginning one of the accused pointed out in the bible, there is a spirit raised by a medium who should not be doing it of the prophet samuel and this was not a real one. therefore the devil can fake the shape of a good person. so you can't trust it but they were listening. >> of the six women who was your favorite to write?
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marilynne: the hardest to sympathize with ann putnam. as i said to someone, bridget bishop could be cranky and i could identify with that. [laughter] >> thank you so much. marilynne: thank you all. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] along with the, contest cable partners we will explore the history and literary life of california's capital the, sacramento. on book tv


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