In the century following the Salem trials, social and political changes taking place in the American colonies had a
1 What Happened to W the Girls?
Most of the accusers in the Salem trials went on to lead fairly normal lives. Betty Parris, Elizabeth Booth, Sarah Churchill, Mary Walcott, and Mercy Lewis eventually married and had families. Records do not reveal what happened to Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Hubbard, Susannah Sheldon, or Mary Warren. Ann Putnam, Jr., stayed in Salem Village for the rest of her life. Both of her parents died of an unknown infectious disease within months of one another in 1699, leaving Ann in charge of raising her nine younger siblings. In 1706, at age twenty-seven, Ann made a formal apology for her role in the trials when she was admitted as a member of the Salem Village church. (See Putnam's biography entry as well as the full text of her apology in the Primary Sources section.)
direct impact on New England. During the early eighteenth century people were struggling to redefine traditional superstitions as the Enlightenment, an intellectual and scientific movement that began in Europe in the seventeenth century, introduced a more rational, reasoned, and ordered concept of the universe. The stronghold of Puritan faith was being replaced by the so-called Age of Reason, which provided no opportunity for hysteria over supernatural powers or the battle between God and the devil. Journals and other accounts show that episodes of suspicion and violence against supposed witches became less frequent throughout the region. Nevertheless, accusations of witchcraft persisted in some places, even into the nineteenth century.
Indeed, in 1800 a Protestant minister in Fayette, Maine, wrote in his diary, as recounted in historian John Putnam Demos's book Entertaining Satan, that there was "Witchcraft in plenty. A man had been troubled six months and it was thought he must die. He is emaciated [dangerously thin] and often horribly distressed. A Mr. Billings, a Baptist teacher, soon to be ordained, has lost his milk for some time." Numerous similar accounts showed the endurance of ancient superstitions. At the same time, however, people struggled to reconcile their old fears with the new rationalism. In 1799 a farmer from Long Island, New York, also quoted in Entertaining Satan, expressed his reluctance to believe in witchcraft:
It is contrary to my senses and my reason, and ridiculous for me to believe in witchcraft, and was it not for what has happened to me and fallen in the way of observation, I should despise the very idea of spirits having the power to act on or operate on the minds or bodies of creatures.
Yet he went on to blame a local gang of women witches for his misfortune. People still believed that witches could be killed by counter-magic; that is, a victim of witchcraft could easily reverse a witch's curse with his or her own curse, which would harm or kill the witch.
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