Tag Archives: Women’s History

Bridget Bishop Hanged at Salem’s Gallows Hill

On June 10, 1692, Bridget Bishop was hanged at Gallows Hill near Salem, Massachusetts, for “certaine Detestable Arts called Witchcraft & Sorceries”. Bridget Bishop was the first person executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in 1692.

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided. (Source)

Like most things of magnitude, the Salem Witchcraft had its beginnings in small things— in so small a thing, indeed, as a circle of young girls meeting together, on winter evenings, at each other’s houses, to practice palmistry and such sleight-of-hand as parlor-magic had then attained. Perhaps it was as remarkable a thing as any in the whole occurrences that such meetings were countenanced at all in that place of the Puritan, and more remarkable still, that no connection was suspected between these meetings and the subsequent antics. These young girls were ten in number; three of them were servants, and two of these are believed to have acted from malicious motives against the families where they were employed, one of them afterward admitting that she did so; and Mary Warren’s guilt, as capital witness securing the execution of seven innocent persons, being—unless we accept the hypothesis of spiritualism—as evident as it is black and damning. In addition to these there were the negro-slaves of Mr. Parris, the minister, in whose household all the first disturbances made their appearance, Tituba and her husband.

The town still preserves a few relics of its memorable past; the House of the Seven Gables was standing there a little while ago, together with the Townsend-Bishop house, famous for its share in the old witchcraft transactions, and the Corwin house, at the corner of North and Essex streets, where the Grand Jury sat upon those transactions. There are some handsome churches and public buildings of more modern date, and a stone Court-house, together with a fine Registry of Deeds. There is an interest attaching to this latter structure, not altogether archaeological though concerning itself with antiquities, but an interest in one of the darkest problems ever presented by human nature; for here are kept such documents as have been preserved from the witchcraft days, and among them the death-warrant of Bridget Bishop . Very few indeed are these papers; for, when the frenzy of the period began to subside, those “Salem Gentlemen” who petitioned the Government to grant no reprieve to Rebecca Nurse, a woman who had lived nearly eighty years of a saintly life, were over-taken by remorse and shame, and hastened to do away with all remembrance of their recent action, exhibiting a better sense of the fitness of things than their descendants do who to-day display in a sealed vial a dozen bent and verdigrised and rusty pins purporting to be the identical ones with which their forefathers plagued the witches; albeit, it is said, the fashion of these pins was not known at the time when those poor wretches were tormented.

Source: Frank Leslie’s Weekly, January 28, 1871

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, founded in 1855 and continued until 1922, was an American illustrated news publication started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.

About Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop, “a singular character, not easily described,” was born sometime between 1632 and 1637. Bishop married three times. Her third and final marriage, after the deaths of her first two husbands, was to Edward Bishop, who was employed as a “sawyer” (lumber worker). She appears to have had no children in any of her marriages.

Although Bishop had been accused by more individuals of witchcraft than any other witchcraft defendant (many of the accusations were markedly vehement and vicious), it was not so much her “sundry acts of witchcraft” that caused her to be the first witch hanged in Salem, as it was her flamboyant life style and exotic manner of dress. Despite being a member of Mr. Hale’s Church in Beverly (she remained a member in good standing until her death), Bishop often kept the gossip mill busy with stories of her publicly fighting with her various husbands, entertaining guests in home until late in the night, drinking and playing the forbidden game of shovel board, and being the mistress of two thriving taverns in town. Some even went so far as to say that Bishop’s “dubious moral character” and shameful conduct caused, “discord [to] arise in other familes, and young people were in danger of corruption.” Bishop’s blatant disregard for the respected standards of puritan society made her a prime target for accusations of witchcraft.

Source: The Bridget Bishop page at Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692.


Woman Suffrage and “The Nation” in 1871

By Mrs. Goodrich Willard

As the editor of The Nation has at last come out and treated the woman question and its advocates in a more respectful manner, we will discuss his views as if he were a gentleman, and not a blackguard or a gander. If he will stop calling names, we will. We are glad that our plan of “treating a fool according to his folly” has worked so well, and made him ashamed of the folly. It is sometimes necessary to do this, because it is the only course that will succeed; nevertheless, we deplore the necessity. It is not to our taste.

The article of The Nation is headed, “Sex in Politics.” The editor says:

Owing to the interest excited by the condition of the city and State of New York, and the condition of the South, and by the condition of France, all of these countries being governed by a numerical majority, and all badly governed, the foundations on which democratic governments rest are receiving a more serious and thoughtful examination than they have ever received before. … Hitherto democracy has been discussed in very much the frame of mind in which men speculated on the form and habits of dragons or the scenery of Hesperides. … Now, however, we have at last got the thing itself under our very eyes, and the debate has assumed a gravity and even a solemnity it has never before had.

The astute editor of The Nation ought to know that the world has never yet seen a true democratic government, but only approaches toward it. The present government of this country, north and south, is nothing more nor less than the very worst form of a masculine oligarchy; and then to think of the absurdity and injustice of calling France a democracy– poor France, in a state of perfect anarchy brought upon her by monarchial misrule and injustice.

It is very evident that The Nation is endeavoring, by sly insinuations, to cast obliquy and distrust upon a democratic or republican form of government. If The Nation, and others like him, shall attempt to foist a monarchy upon this people, they will have a hot time of it.



American Women Who Drink (1871)

The press has lately been agitating to a considerable extent the question as to whether intemperance among women is increasing so much as some of the published statements of physicians and others would lead us to suppose, and from my own observation I am compelled to believe that this vice is growing to such an alarming extent that unless it is checked, and that speedily, the next generation will be born drunkards, and die drunkards.

Even as I write there comes over me the recollection of a bright, piquant little lady in Washington, the mother of a lovely boy, the wife of a good, kind husband, whom we all liked, and who was the life of any party she joined, and of home. We ladies used to wonder why her husband would never allow her to enter the general parlor where we all sat in the evening, sometimes entertained for hours by the interesting conversation of Mrs. Gaine’s and other witty ladies. We thought he was rather strict with his bright young wife, but afterwards found he was right, for she was addicted to drinking intoxicating liquors.

I refused to believe it at first, until one evening when she had stolen into the parlor, she executed a can-can before a minister of the government, when my faith in her began to waver; but not until the day of our departure when I went to her room to say good-bye was I convinced that she really was a slave to the demon. She met us at the door with a stagger, her dress disarranged, and with her tongue so thick she could scarcely utter the farewell words that come to her lips. I left her, sick at heart, saying, “God pity that little family.” She had alcoholic drink prescribed to her by a physician, and that is how she became a drunkard.



Equal Pay for Equal Work in 1870

Extract of a private letter from a lady in Michigan:

I see in a late Revolution that it will expose the unfairness of half pay for equal work, on account of sex.

Here is only one example, out of many in my line of business.

On September 1, 1869, I took a man’s place in one of the city ward schools, the first time in this city that this position had been filled by a woman—have done the same work (except that of using corporal punishment, which, by the way, I abolished in my department five years ago, the Board here, a few weeks since); and giving better satisfaction, judging from “what they say,” than did my male predecessor, he receiving $60 per month, and I but $30.

The Board engaged me for the second term — proof of satisfaction. I have petitioned for better salary, pleaded for justice, and petitioned — but in vain.

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s Newspapers Collection. We can provide access to fully searchable newspapers by and for women including The Lily, The Revolution, and the National Citizen and Ballot Box.

Source: The Revolution, March 24, 1870
Image:  Classroom scenes in Washington, D.C. public schools (1899)


The Poverty of Women (1870)

It would be a curious and pathetic statement if we could have placed before us the sums which women have added to the wealth of the world, to which they have no title, and for which they receive no credit. Thousands of men, if they spoke the truth, would be obliged to acknowledge that the foundations of their fortunes were laid by their wives; not indirectly alone, by furnishing them with an incentive, with something to work for, but directly, in the way of counsel, encouragement, and active help.

If these women could come into their own– into what they have actually added to the productive capital of society–they would not be the paupers they are to-day, nor mere beneficiaries upon the bounty of men. The entire talents and energies of an average housekeeper are given to the care of her family, the comfort of her husband, and still, to all intents and purposes, she is a beggar. There are thousands of men, yea millions, like the old down East farmer, of whom it is related that he was an excellent husband and father, but he never could see what a woman wanted with five dollars. These men are good to their “women folks,” in country parlance, until their pockets are touched, then every dollar that is extracted for a needful pair of shoes or a new gown comes like drawing teeth. In the rural districts, at least, the belief still prevails that women cannot be trusted with money. The wife goes to the store “to trade,” at the last pinch of need; the husband stands by to check all extravagance, and when the purchases are made, reluctantly draws forth his pocket-book and pays the bill.

Multitudes of men lean on their wives every hour in the day, and often consult them on affairs of business, knowing their practical ability to be greater than their own, who have never had the generosity to draw out fifty dollars and say, “Here, take this, go and buy what is needful for yourself and the girls.” I have seen genial men transformed into sour, crabbed, disagreeable old curmudgeons at the simple question, “Father, won’t you please give us some money to day?”

The male intellect finds it exceedingly difficult to comprehend why a woman wants or requires money. I have known women to deprive themselves of the necessaries of life rather than submit to the humiliation of asking for what is rightfully their own–what they have earned by the sweat of the brow and the toil of the hands. In agricultural districts the wife and daughters are active partners in the business of the farm. Besides attending to their own special province of housework, they help milk the cows; they assist at butter and cheese-making; they gather and preserve fruit, and prepare it for market, and in harvest time they often go into the field. They labor more hours, and have infinitely more responsibility, than any hired hand on the farm; and yet, when at the end of the season the farm-hand goes away with his pocket well lined, they have not a penny to show for their summer’s work.