Female power witchcraft and gender in Elizabethan England

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"Ioane Cunny, liuing very lewdly, hauing two lewde Daughters, no better then naughty packs, had two Bastard Children: beeing both boyes, these two Children were cheefe witnesses, and gaue in great euidence against their Grandam and Mothers, the eldest being about 10. or 12. yeeres of age. Against this Mother Cunny the elder Boye gaue in this euideoce which she herselfe after confessed, that she going to Braintye Market, came to one Harry Finches house, to demaund some drink, his wife being busie and a brewing, tolde her she had no leysure to giue her any. Then Ioane Cunnye went away discontented: and at night Finches wife was greeuously taken in her head, and the next day in her side, and so continued in most horrible paine for the space of a week, and then dyed."1

In 1589 Joan Cunny and her two daughters, Avice and Margaret, all from Stisted, Essex, were brought before the Summer Assizes in Chelmsford charged with witchcraft. Undoubtedly the two daughters, by having illegitimate children, lived outside the "norms" of Elizabethan society: a society where it has been estimated that only one to four percent of the population were illegitimate2. Joan and Avice were charged with causing people to die by witchcraft - a crime punishable by the death penalty and Margaret was accused of the lesser offences of two counts of bewitchment. All three women were found guilty: Joan and Avice were sentenced to hang and Margaret sentenced to one year (and six appearances in the stocks). Joan was hanged immediately after her trial but Avice had pleaded pregnancy and, as she was found to be pregnant by a jury of matrons (which included Joan Robinson who had been implicated in the St

1589 Joan Cunny, Joan Upney and Joan Prentice1

Anon; (1589) The apprehension and confession of three notorious witches. Arreigned and by iustice condemned and executed at Chelmes-forde, in the Countye of Essex

Munro, J; (2004) The economic history of later-Medieval and Early-Modern Europe http://www.economics.utoronto.ca/munro5/03Popme.pdf p28

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