Rebecca Nurse

The Examination of Rebecca Nurse (1692)

Reprinted in Major Problems in American Colonial History in 1993

Edited by Karen O. Kupperman

Rebecca Nurse was an ailing seventy-one-year-old great-grandmother and faithful Salem village church member when she was arrested as a witch in March 1692 (see Chapter 4). Although little is known about her early life, records show that she was born Rebecca Towne in Yarmouth, England, and baptized on February 21, 1621. During her childhood her family moved to Massachusetts and settled in the village of Topsfield. She married Francis Nurse, a farmer, and they rented a large house on 300 acres of land near Salem Village; they had fours sons and four daughters. (The restored Nurse homestead still stands; it has been designated as an historical site.) In 1678 the Nurses obtained the title to the house and land, and over the next fourteen years they became highly respected members of the community. Then in February 1692 Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Parris, Ann Putnam, Jr.(see biography and primary source entries), and other young girls claimed they were being attacked by the specters (spirits) of several women, whom they accused of practicing witchcraft. In March 1692 Putnam interrupted a church service and tar

Many older women were being accused of witchcraft because they lived alone and often kept to themselves. Reproduced by permission of the Corbis Corporation (Bellevue).

geted Rebecca Nurse as one of the principal witches (see Chapter 3). Ann Putnam, Sr. also began accusing Nurse of witchcraft (see primary source entry). The Nurses immediately stopped attending church. On March 23, 1692, Rebecca Nurse was arrested and sent to the Salem jail even though she had been ill and was confined to her bed.

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