Women and Witch Trials with Ann Little – Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast
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To honor Women’s History Month and March 8, International Women’s Day we have created a special episode with Colorado State University’s Dr. Ann Little who specializes in the history of colonial America, with special emphasis on the history of women, gender and sexuality. She is a professor, author and expert consultant for Who Do You Think You Are? We discuss past and persisting mentalities toward and in women including their fertility and sexuality power in society. What is the impact of this narrative on historic witch trials and in modern attitudes influencing women’s rights?
[00:00:00] Sarah Jack: Welcome to this episode of Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. I'm Sarah Jack. Josh Hutchinson: And I'm Josh Hutchinson. Sarah Jack: Today's guest is Dr. Ann Little from Colorado State University, who offers the class Approaches to History: Witchcraft in Early North America. This episode is our way of recognizing the history of women and International Women's Day. We hope you enjoy the various topics discussed that cover women's experiences. Josh Hutchinson: March is Women's History Month, and so much of the witch trials is women's history. Women were by far the most targeted individuals [00:01:00] in the witch hunts in the past and remain the most targeted in witch hunts of the present. Sarah Jack: I was excited to bring Ann Little onto this episode, because of her unique perspectives with her expertise and the experiences she's had doing research and being featured on Who Do You Think You Are? and this conversation was excellent. I learned a lot from her while I was talking and exploring some of the topics that come up when you're thinking about women in history, and I'm really excited for everyone to hear what she had to say and to think about the conversation we had around those topics. Josh Hutchinson: Dr. Little is an expert in women's studies and [00:02:00] women's history and particularly colonial women's history, and it was great to talk to her for our Women's Day episode to get that perspective on how witch trials affected women, what the roles of men and women were in those trials, and how and why women were so disproportionately impacted. Sarah Jack: The mentalities that were alive in the historical witch trials are a lot of what we're still trying to navigate in our modern situations. I hope this conversation will inspire women. And this is so hard for me probably because I am a woman who has experienced all this patriarchal stuff. It's so important. I don't want these stupid, false narratives blocking what [00:03:00] we can know about women. We need to expect and demand real historic inquiry on women's history and witch trials. We've seen through all the previous podcasts, in talking to experts, that it is happening. Beth Caruso and Dr. Kathy Hermes illustrated that women can still lead in new research. There's new research to be done, it can be done by women. Josh Hutchinson: I especially liked what you're talking about with we need to have real, deep historical investigations into the past lives of women and not treat them as secondary subject matter when doing research, and women can lead the research and do it themselves. And Dr. Little [00:04:00] does point out that's progress that women are able to do research these days to become professors and researchers and do this. But there's still a long ways to go. We talk about the historic hierarchy between men and women, and you still see that very present today in many societies, including America. And we still struggle with women's equality and liberties. A lot of men struggle with taking women seriously and listening to what they have to say and treating them as equals. If you've listened to our past episodes, you know that a thread across all of the episodes is that women were the common targets and still are in modern [00:05:00] witch hunts. Sarah Jack: Now I'm happy to introduce Dr. Ann Little, who specializes in the history of Colonial America with special emphasis on the history of women, gender, and sexuality. She's the author of two award-winning books, Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England, and the Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright. She has consulted on Who do You Think You Are? for Jean Smart to discuss her Salem witch trial ancestor and Zachary Levi to discuss his Connecticut witch trial ancestor. How do your courses in American women's history and approaches to history intersect with witch trial history? Ann Little: For a long time, I avoided ever talking about witches in early America, especially in the women's history courses, because I was a little frustrated by attempts, when I was a younger teacher and scholar, maybe 20 years ago. When [00:06:00] I would attempt to introduce this into the class discussion or into class materials that students first of all, it was one of the only things they knew about women before, I don't know, Abigail Adams, before the 19th Amendment. I don't know. They have very little knowledge of American women's history, in general. So witches is the only thing they really know. And then students would respond to the material very dismissively, and they would just say, "oh, people back then were just stupid and crazy, and we're not stupid anymore and we're not crazy, so this will never happen in our culture." And I got very frustrated by that. I was frustrated by what I saw as a lack of students entering into the spirit of real historical inquiry, really trying to understand the mentalité, the ideas and the psychology and the world that surrounded people who believed in witchcraft and who would accuse other people of witchcraft. [00:07:00] It just seemed to me that I was doing a bad job at trying to get them to think more deeply about the history of women and the history of witchcraft and why women in particular were accused of witchcraft in the great era of witchcraft hunting. So I had to think about it for a long time. I did some more studying and thinking about it, and a couple years ago, as you saw, I reintroduced some witchcraft into my teaching again, because I thought that the literature was sufficiently rich and complicated enough to encourage students to engage in that deeper reflection about how do people come to believe things that are probably, if not surely, untrue? How do people come to believe false things? And then how do they come to commit real injustice, if not actual homicidal violence against the people, the accused of embodying this false idea, this false belief. And it really struck me that sort of focusing on the women was [00:08:00] something that was a more effective way of getting them into it, trying to get them to understand what it was about women in this time period and anxieties about sexuality and fertility. So it seemed to me like the literature had maybe caught up a little bit and students were a little bit more open-minded for thinking about stuff in this more complicated way. Or maybe I just got a little bit better and more sophisticated in my presentation of these ideas. Sarah Jack: I'm really looking forward to the moment where we can get that far with starting conversations with people. Right now, with our exoneration efforts in Connecticut, so there's just that first little hump of are we talking about something amusing? Are we talking about the old evil women? And we have to get past those blocks. And then also help them see, hey, we have some history on this, too, not looking at the history [00:09:00] sloppily. And then not even just in that environment, but I went to a podcasting networking event and just saying the name of our podcast and bringing up the topic, people immediately go to the sensational thoughts of witches and that sort of thing. And International Women's Day, your classes, other things happening in the world with Scotland and their pardon, it really is bringing this issue more to the forefront, and I'm frustrated and wanna be able to talk about it more and have people hear what we're trying to reach them. Ann Little: I understand. And I share your goals. This is a historic injustice. This might seem a little extreme, but if you talked about, if you said you had a podcast about the Armenian genocide and people laughed about it and made jokes about it. They wouldn't, in part because it's a more recent event, but also because it hasn't been pop [00:10:00] culturified in the way that witches and witchcraft have been. Sarah Jack: When I was looking through Witch Craze, which you recommend, in the chapter on the cannibalism, the author mentions that part of the torture for the women was to drive these narratives in wild stories, witch stories. And so we have all these misconstrued stories of the image of women and the actual stories are like sitting right there for us, and that's what we wanna get to people. So I really appreciate that you're incorporating this into your education of college students, because if people are getting this information earlier and more familiar with it, it's gonna make those conversations easier sooner. Ann Little: I hope so. Sarah Jack: How [00:11:00] did misogyny feed the Witch Hunts of the past? Ann Little: Christian Europeans, and I should say my expertise is really only in sort of Western Christendom, especially in New England and England. But I can also speak, I think, to the other Christian witchcraft persecutions in Europe more broadly speaking, from the 15th through the 17th centuries. Christian Europeans believed in a strict hierarchy of men over women. Men were presumed to be closer to God, because of the order of creation, right? God created Adam, and then only out of his rib did he create Eve. So Christians believed in that kind of natural hierarchy or great chain of being. That used sex as a fundamental axis along which to structure human societies. Now there are other axes as well. There's also age, there's status or class. And they all intersect in interesting and different ways and [00:12:00] affected women at different points differently throughout their lives. But that critical hierarchy of male over female, I think, is really important to understanding women's vulnerability. But then as you suggested, you brought up Lyndal Roper's Witch Craze book. It was her book that really suggested to me that it was women's fertility and women's bodies that were especially at stake. Now, her evidence base is mostly early modern Germany. But I think that when I have asked my women's history students to read documents from the New England Witch trials, they see a lot of the same elements, a lot of the same concerns around sexuality and women's bodies and exposing or covering up women's bodies. And was it a child of yours that died? Why did your child die, or did you cause a child of mine to die? Just a lot of anxiety about the role of women as future mothers or failed mothers. Seems to be a really big part of the New England witchcraft [00:13:00] persecutions, as well. And I don't think scholars have developed that nearly enough. Sarah Jack: That's one of the things that's not frustrating to me is how many great channels of investigation and revealing are available to us still like this. And is that something that you're doing more research on? Ann Little: I am not doing any research on witchcraft accusations, but I am doing research right now on women and fertility in the first generation after the American Revolution. So a lot of the readings that I've been doing with my students and some of their papers that I've encouraged them to write on the basis of some of the 17th century evidence, they are helpful in helping me think through and work through ideas about women's fertility a couple hundred years later effectively. Sarah Jack: And is there anything else about the relationship between fertility in that era of the 17th century when the witch hunting was happening in those colonies [00:14:00] that would be important for us to know or understand or learn about? Ann Little: A friend of mine named Mark Fiege a couple years ago, about 10 years ago, published a book called Republic of Nature. And it's a book about how you can use environmental history to explain all of American history. And his first chapter in that book was a book on the witchcraft accusations in New England, in particular around Salem. And he made some really important and interesting points about how there was a generalized concern in late 17th century Anglo-American agricultural societies about fertility and the health of animals, as well as the health of human beings. And this kind of organic way of seeing human and animal and environmental, ecological health, all interconnected. And that's been really influential on my thinking. It's just the first chapter of his book, but I highly recommend it to you, if you haven't read that book yet. It's a very compelling and interesting [00:15:00] discussion of what you can do by thinking about fertility as this core anxiety. If you think about early Anglo-Americans as this small, struggling group of colonies that are just trying to survive and reproduce and trying to make their way in what they perceive to be a hostile, howling wilderness. Of course, it might've been hostile to them, but it was not a wilderness. It was occupied by other peoples, as well, other people who were also struggling to survive because of the ravages of colonialism on the native peoples as well. They were also struggling even harder to be able to get their crops in the ground, get the crops out of the ground, feed their families, because of the ravages of imported diseases. Sarah Jack: This is a little segue. I'm gonna direct it at Josh real quick. A specific case popped in my mind when you were talking about the connection between animals and the thriving. Josh was it Katherine Harris in [00:16:00] Connecticut, that they killed her animals while she was jailed? Josh Hutchinson: Yeah. Katherine Harrison. They vandalized her animals, I think is the way it's described. They injured them. Sarah Jack: It just made me think how, even if they weren't thinking, well, we can make sure that she's not gonna thrive, we're gonna pluck out all of the opportunities for fertility that represent her by killing her animals. In a way, it also is a metaphor for that. Ann Little: The case of Katherine Harrison is a really interesting case, if I'm remembering this correctly, because it does suggest not just this concern about human and animal health, but it's also really illustrating, for the Anglo-Americans, the sometimes uncomfortable connections and intimacies between humans and animals. On the one hand, they were very dependent on domestic livestock and other animals, [00:17:00] of course, for their livelihoods and for their health and their wellbeing. And they sometimes lived in very close intimacy with these animals. I remember one of the first articles I ever published was based on a diary of a man named Thomas Minor, who kept a diary in the late 17th century. And he names every one of his milk cows. He names them Brownie and Bessie and all these names. Meanwhile, he almost never talks about his wife and his kids. He's got a wife and several children, as many men did in early New England. But he never, or rarely ever, mentions them by name. He only talks about them if they're sick. But he has these, for a 17th century diary, sort of these long passages about how the animals are doing. And I think that that's because that's really where his head was. And that was about the whole commitment to creating a world in which his family could thrive. It was really dependent on these animals. But Anglo-American people, English Christians were a little uncomfortable [00:18:00] with some of the intimacies between humans and animals, right? We know that this is disturbing, but we know that sex between humans and animals was prosecuted very vigorously in early New England, and there were several young men, especially, and some troubled older men, who were executed because they were found guilty of bestiality. So there are these ways in which humans are dependent on animals, and they even have some affection for animals. But there's also this kind of anxiety about, "oh, are you having inappropriate relations or influenced by these animals?" Have you ever read the Tituba Salem Witch trial transcripts? So you remember at several points she says, "oh, the cat came to me and said, 'hurt the children, go hurt the children.' Or a bird came to me and I followed it on ways and the bird said, 'hurt the children.'" There are these ways in which animals come to people and these Anglo-American or settler colony individuals like Tituba, and it just illustrates that there's this concern or anxiety about [00:19:00] this unseemly intimacy between humans and animals. Sarah Jack: What is it about the anxiety of individuals and intimacy, the fear of women and their covenant with Satan, and are they being intimate with devils or demons? And then the animal thing, it's just interesting. Ann Little: I should say it wasn't just intimacy with animals. It was even, for example, if you read 17th century pamphlets and ministers advice for parents, and parents are instructed to not to love their children too much, not to be overly affectionate with their children. There are 17th century diarists, who, when their children die, they reflect sometimes very sadly, that, "oh I loved him too much, and this is God's punishment, for God is taking him away to punish me for this unseemly love that I had for my child." And I think this is because [00:20:00] of the Puritan, especially, insistence that the primary sort of love relationship between humans had to be with the divine, it had to be with God. All of that sort of, all of that emotional passion or most of that emotional passion needed to be really channeled heavenward and that it was unseemly or inappropriate to be overly loving or to love too much, even within the context of a marriage or a parent-child relationship. So it is, I think, Sarah, you've got a really profound point there that there, there is this need to control, right? Not just what people are doing, but where their hearts are inclined, how they're directing their emotional energies and thoughts. It's an interesting thing. Sarah Jack: It is interesting. Thanks for those thoughts on that. I was interested in The Devil in the Shape of a Woman when she would talk about the additional charges that were happening and then witchcraft charges as [00:21:00] well. And sometimes that would be fornication. So that charge, but also fornication or infanticide. Is there anything that you can tell us about that? Why? I don't know. I just found it interesting sometimes, the witch craft was tied to it. Sometimes they were in for accusations of witchcraft, but they'd had previous charges. How could a woman's trouble with the law in an other area result in additional charges of witchcraft? Ann Little: So when I was shooting my second, Who Do You Think You Are? When I was interpreting some of the ancestors of Jean Smart, the actress Jean Smart, we shot our scenes in Beverly, Massachusetts at the house of one of the ministers who was involved with the witch trials. Her ancestor basically ran a kind of a teenage servant theft ring out of her household. She had a bunch of teenage daughters and their friends. They worked for other wealthy [00:22:00] people in the community, had a teenage daughter, as I recall, who worked for John Hale, a minister who was involved in the Salem witchcraft proceedings. And would serve as the house mother for these teenage servants who would bring them stuff that they were stealing from their masters. And it was sometimes a few lengths of beautiful, fine silk cloth or lace. Sometimes it was a really delicious food stuff they had stolen. Sometimes it was some alcohol, as I recall. But all of these evidence of any kind of misbehavior, criminal, or just even just being rude to your neighbors or sort of etiquette offenses, anything, after a witchcraft accusation, was seen in light of that subsequent witchcraft accusation. Neighbors were testifying. People were saying, "oh yes, this girl took this outta my house," and, "this girl took that outta my house." they were describing down to the last shilling and tuppence exactly how much that these girls had stolen, [00:23:00] exactly what they had stolen, where they had stolen it from. It's a really fascinatingly detailed case. The producers of Who Do You Think You Are? did not want to explore that part of her case. But anything that a woman would've done, any crime or sin she would've committed, became seen in a totally different light, if she ever were subsequently accused of witchcraft. That's something, too, that I think happens today in our modern media, right? Whenever we hear the news of somebody who's done something terrible, all of a sudden every news reporter is tracking down the suspect's social media profile, any social media postings, looking up their names in previous newspapers, newspaper articles, previous video clips. So it's a human impulse, I think, to explain the present by looking to the past. Josh Hutchinson: I wanted to follow up on the hierarchy of men and women. Is it that hierarchy that drove the gender imbalance in the witch trials, or were there other factors? Ann Little: [00:24:00] I think it is the gender hierarchy that is central, but I also think it's because of women's unique role in human reproduction and in feeding children. So you could say the other part of that equation is just biology. We are a sexually dimorphic species. We reproduce sexually. That's how it works. And that the female is the sex whose body is organized around the production of ova and the nurturing of fetuses and the production of breast milk for feeding infants. So I'm not sure it would've worked out exactly the same way if women were also the superior in the hierarchy. But I think this gets to some really like deep human species questions, not even just like historical questions, but human evolution questions, right? That we have evolved to be sexually dimorphic. [00:25:00] One sex tends to be larger and stronger than the other sex. And I think that it has been a frustration and a fascination for men that they could not entirely control human reproduction on their own. And that I think a lot of human society is organized around trying to direct and control young women's fertility. And it's not just men who do this. I don't mean to set up a strict hierarchy between men and women, and men are all evil and women are all good. That's not what I'm suggesting here. I'm just doing a little informed speculation here, but I guess what I'm suggesting is that all of society is really interested in the population question and is really fascinated with, are people having enough babies? Are they having enough of the right kind of babies? Are they having them in the right way? Are they raising them in the right way? And I think a whole lot of cultural and social and intellectual energy [00:26:00] is poured into this question at every time in human history, at least the last 5 or 6 hundred years, so far as I can tell. But it's still ongoing today. But as I said, it's not just men. It's not all men versus all women. It's also older women, right? Women who are past their childbearing years, women who no longer can contribute to human society in that respect, they tend to also contribute to this discourse on trying to affect and control and predetermine what young women are up to and what young women are doing with their fertility. That's what I think. Sarah Jack: And I'm thinking about how there's like a little bit of power in that fertility. Ann Little: I think there's a lot of power, and this is what I told my women's history students last semester. I said, "you are the most powerful people in the world, you women in the class, because you control the existence or the lack of existence of the next generation." I said, "you don't have control entirely over [00:27:00] that." Since the Supreme Court's decision last summer, the students were very receptive to that information, and they all came into the class really freaked out about what the end of Roe versus Wade might mean in their lives and in their friends' lives. But I told them, "you have so much power. You don't control it entirely. And you can't control it entirely, but you are the ones who are the powerful ones here." Sarah Jack: So do you think that the Puritan patriarchy overlooked that power? When a woman aged out of her fertility years, she was less, even less important to them. Ann Little: Yes, she was. And that's why it is that age and stage of life that made women so vulnerable to witchcraft accusations in New England, as you point out. It is women who are unmarried, that is to say mostly widows and who are past their childbearing years. There are very few women, even in the [00:28:00] Salem case or around the Salem case, like your ancestor, Sarah, that you told me about. I looked her up. What is her name again? Sarah Jack: Winifred Benham in Wallingford, Connecticut. Ann Little: Winifred Benham, Senior and Junior, a mother and a daughter who were accused and that was very unusual. Overwhelmingly it was probably menopausal, usually widows. And also, intriguingly, the author Carol Karlsen, I think she made a brilliant argument in her book now, almost 40 years ago, that I don't think anybody has even attempted or successfully argued or refuted. But she said that it was not only older women and not only women past their childbearing years, but it was also women who didn't have any male heirs. And so, therefore, their property, whatever property they had looked like it was going to go to daughters and nieces and stuff like that. And so she suggested that there might even have been this disturbing interest in getting that wealth eventually out of the hands of those younger women who stood to inherit from their [00:29:00] elders. Sarah Jack: One little interesting thing about the Benham case is Winifred Senior's mother had been an accused witch in Boston some decades before. Ann Little: This brings it back again to reproduction. When you see this genealogical tie that women whose mothers or aunts have been accused of witchcraft or sisters who've been accused of witchcraft are the ones who also get accused of witchcraft. So this is another aspect of that notion of witchcraft speaking to these very deep fears and concerns about family and generativity and reproduction. Sarah Jack: How did women obtaining power make them more vulnerable to witch hunts? Ann Little: Carol Karlsen, in her 1987 book The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, really convincingly argued that it was not necessarily poor women. The stereotype of witches from European witchcraft accusations is that these are poor, sometimes [00:30:00] mentally ill, elderly women, right? Women who are crazed for whatever reason. These are the people who are accused of witchcraft, cuz they seem witchy, right? They go around muttering, right? That's actually a frequent complaint that's used as evidence against witches accused of witches is if they would go about the town muttering to themselves. But so Karlsen argued that, in New England, the stereotype of witch doesn't really hold, she argued that it was actually more senior women who had inherited or achieved some level of wealth and who were widows and, therefore, in control of their own money at the time who are the most vulnerable to witchcraft accusations. Now, it wasn't every single woman who was wealthy and a widow. But again, if you have these other unfortunate aspects of your biography or your family history, for example Sarah, if you know your sister or your mother or aunt, somebody like that was accused of witchcraft, that might make people think you're a little [00:31:00] witchy. If you have a history of participating in criminal offenses or history of prosecutions before the court, or a history of being rude to your neighbors, that can also set you up for witchcraft accusations. But these are women who are vulnerable because they don't have that kind of kinship ties around them as effectively as other women did. They were widowed, and they didn't have male heirs, and, therefore, presumably, no sons or nephews in the area to help rally around them, talk people out of these ideas, talk people out of prosecuting them. Sarah Jack: So I can see how because witches are like the opposite of virtuous women, how having the other troubles happening in their backgrounds could really push them towards a witchcraft accusation. Ann Little: And sometimes it wasn't even misbehavior. It was just bad luck. If you had a series of miscarriages, if many of your children [00:32:00] had died, and then somebody, maybe one of your neighbors or one of your neighbor's children has a series of miscarriages or infant or child deaths. Now that is not an unusual thing to happen, certainly not in the early modern period. Children and babies were the most vulnerable to disease and death. If enough of these facts start lining up, it makes people start to think that maybe somebody is using diabolical powers to inhibit the fertility and success of my family. Maybe somebody is directing Satanic powers against our community. Josh Hutchinson: Did the way that the ministers sermonized about women and wrote about women, did that affect the witchcraft prosecutions? Ann Little: They're leaders in the community who gave sanction to these fears. We know that's the case in Salem, right? With Reverend Parris where the witchcraft breaks out in his household. [00:33:00] And on the one hand, of course, one can sympathize with Reverend Parris, seeing his daughter and his niece become so afflicted. And it was his servant then who's one of the accused witches, Tituba. You can sympathize with a father who is looking at this outbreak of mass hysteria in his household. He doesn't know it's a kind of mass hysteria. He thinks it, it really is a diabolical affliction. It's a mysterious it looks to be a life-threatening illness. I'm sure that these girls thrashing about on the floor, it might've looked like that they had something like tetanus, which is a terrifying disease with no good end in this period, right? Not before tetanus vaccinations and antibiotics and stuff like that. So you can sympathize with Parris for wanting desperately to find an answer for what is happening within his household. But on the other hand you can see how his sanctioning of this idea got loose in the community and empowered these young people to start [00:34:00] making accusations that otherwise would not have been believed, would not have been credited. Puritan ministers are not in the habit of taking seriously the concerns and worries of teenage girls in their communities. They're not authority figures in any way whatsoever, unless an authority figure points to them and says, "ah, these children have the knowledge. They will show us the way. They will help us root sin and the devil out of our community." Sarah Jack: Cotton Mathers speaks of a child in that matter in one of his books, Priscilla Thornton, and I was thinking about her earlier. Are you familiar with her at all? She was dying in an epidemic in Windsor around 1647. And it was around the time of the first executed witch, Alice Young in Windsor. And her spiritual state was very important to him. And he talks [00:35:00] about her godliness at her deathbed. And I was thinking when you were speaking earlier about not over loving children, how focusing on her spiritual walk and her godliness, even though she wasn't his child. Focusing on a child for a specific reason that fits the narrative was important. Ann Little: He was authorizing her experiences and suggesting that there are important things for other people to pay attention to. She's not just a confused, dying, little girl. And we've seen this before in human history. I think it's a sign of kind of a case of mass cultural breakdown when people start looking to children and expecting children to have the answers. Sarah Jack: How does viewing witch hunts through the lens of women's studies help break through other areas? We have talked about it a little bit, but I'd love to hear a little bit more. There's so many [00:36:00] biases and stereotypes that women are trying to break through right now, and how can looking back at the past and the structures that were going on around witch trials help us do that today, break through some biases? Ann Little: That's an interesting question. To me what's interesting about approaching witchcraft crazes and witchcraft accusations by focusing on a kind of a feminist analysis is that it puts the emphasis back on women and their bodies and their essential role in human civilization, which I think we've forgotten, right? We just take for granted that women are going to be the mothers and, anymore, a lot of the inconvenience and the pain and the risk that women have taken on through all of human history in bearing the next generation of the young has really been swept away or made [00:37:00] invisible in our modern world. Don't get me wrong, I do not wanna live in any other period of American history before the one I've lived in now for 54 years of my life so far. I don't wanna live in a world without sanitation. I don't wanna live in a world without central heating. I don't wanna live in a world without antibiotics, without modern surgery, germ theory, right? Think of all the ways that your life has probably been saved multiple times over by a dose of antibiotics in childhood or, I don't know, I had a cesarean section when I had a baby, and that probably at least saved my daughter's life. It might not have saved my life, but it did save her life, right? So there are all these ways that modernity has tidied up human life. And I think that the witchcraft trials and witchcraft accusations are an opportunity for us to be reminded of the messiness, not just of status games among humans, right? But the messiness of women's lives that are really at the [00:38:00] center of a lot of these witchcraft accusations, anxieties about whether or not babies are going to live, about whether or not a woman is going to survive childbirth, about whether or not she's going to be able to ever have another pregnancy again. All these anxieties about fertility and reproduction kind of coalesce and cohere around a lot of these witchcraft accusations. And again, I think that's something that modern life has really allowed us to think wouldn't have been an issue. And I should have said, it's not just modern surgical techniques and antibiotics, it's also this most amazing invention of the 20th century, which is the birth control pill, right? That and any kind of more reliable form of contraception that mostly came out of the 20th century. All of these things have completely changed women's lives and men's lives, but it really has changed, I think, the way that we even think about our lives. Childbirth for women, up until the last [00:39:00] century, maybe the last 120 years, childbirth was women's war, right? If you think about it from a Native American perspective, there are a lot of Native American societies, for example the Cherokee and the Wabanaki, who have all these interesting blood rituals around manhood and womanhood, and the blood rituals around manhood are of course hunting, which is practice for warfare. So hunting and warfare are men's blood rituals. Women's blood rituals are menstruation and childbirth, right? And these are these kind of crucial tests of a sexed body's value to his or her community. Are you going to make an ultimate sacrifice? Are you going to do the thing that we need you to do, either to continue our kinship line or to fight the enemies and bring in more people to join our kinship line through captivity and adoption? I think sometimes thinking about it in that Native American [00:40:00] way, it makes a lot of sense. And I think that the way that we think about it in our modern lives, women have lost that dignity, I think, that came from the risks inherent in female life that would've been here, up until the last century or so. Sarah Jack: Thinking back to the Salem trials, I'm thinking about Elizabeth Proctor who pled the belly, but then also you have Sarah Good, who had an infant with her in the jail. Ann Little: I would say somebody who is interred with her children is somebody who's almost definitionally kinless, right? Just like some of these widowed women with no male heirs and maybe not even very many female heirs around, that's somebody who's kinless in this society. Again, looking at it from the Native American perspective, where kin is everything, kinlessness really does make one vulnerable [00:41:00] in your community. You don't have any built in peeps, right? To look after you, to protect you, to rally around you. And a woman who goes to jail and brings her children with her is somebody who doesn't have anybody that she can trust to leave her children with or who will even accept the responsibility of looking after her children. Isn't that just desperately sad? Sarah Jack: It is. And when you look at the beginning of the trials, those initial women that were jailed would've fallen under that kinless category. Ann Little: I'm not surprised. I'm not surprised. Like I said, thinking about this from like the evolutionary perspective and the Native American, the really deep history perspective, thinking about this cross-culturally in terms of our connections to other human animals, right? This is an important part of how human societies have flourished or have stumbled, gotten in their own way of flourishing, as in the case of Salem in 1692. Sarah Jack: Understanding [00:42:00] these aspects of the witch trials that you're bringing to light and helping us see and discuss would be important to getting past the invisibility of women's history and the invisibility of the biases in our modern world. Ann Little: I hope so, or at least understanding them more. One of the things I try to do in my teaching is to encourage students to take the long view. So like I said, last fall when my students convened in my women's history class, many of them were really very worried, very visibly disturbed by the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade. But I encourage them to take the long view, that history goes back a little bit more than 50 or 100 or even 150 years. And if we take the [00:43:00] really long view, I'm very encouraged about the trajectory that American women are on. American women and other women in the West, I would say are incredibly fortunate. And we've achieved this really only because of the work of our mothers and our grandmothers, right? Think about the world in 1950. That's only 70 years ago, 73 years ago. The career I have was only just becoming imaginable to some women, right? To me it's remarkable, and I didn't come from any kind of a fancy family. My mother doesn't have a college degree, and I earned a PhD at the end of the 20th century. In just 60 or 70 years because of some of these, because of technology, the birth control pill, because of the Black Civil Rights Movement, which inspired the Women's Civil Rights Movement, right? The Women's Movement and then the Gay Rights Movement. There are all of these fascinating, important things that happened in the 1950s, and they're important for us to [00:44:00] understand and attend to. I think students need to appreciate just how unusual their lives are, if you look at all of the generations of American women that proceed us. Sarah Jack: Absolutely. And I can see how the long view then allows you to celebrate these accomplishments. It's not just, you know, we're not. at this place yet? No, we're not over here yet. You can look at where you've come from. Ann Little: That's right. And I said to my students who are concerned about access to abortion rights, access to reproductive healthcare, I said, "look, the world is not 1973 anymore. Women are organizing online. Women can have credit cards in their own names. Women can have bank accounts. They do have bank accounts. We are still in the United States, allowed the free passage across state lines." I would like to see the state that tries to like administer pregnancy tests to any woman who looks like she's under the age of 50. Come on, this is not the world that we live in [00:45:00] anymore. I'm very optimistic. I think the end of Roe is, for many pro-choice women, very reasonably troubling, but I also think that the world has changed. We have the internet women are accessing. We have medical abortion. We never had medical abortion in 1973. And the vast majority of pregnancies that are terminated voluntarily are terminated before 15 weeks. There's no reason to think that you are helpless and to think that this is a catastrophe. And no generation of American women have ever been through anything like this before. Sarah Jack: So I can see where, when you're looking at the 17th century woman, there was broad helplessness. Ann Little: Well, maybe legally, but women are really smart. And women are not the stronger sex, but we are the more verbally fluent sex. We are the sex that knows how to get what we want by talking to people, [00:46:00] by convincing people, by working people, which is not to say, I would say to manipulate, but that, I know that has a bad connotation, but women know how to do this stuff. Sarah Jack: For women, it has a bad connotation. Ann Little: I think you're right. Yeah. I think for men too. I think a lot of the men who listen to your podcast are, I'm sure, people who would bristle at any kind of gross generalizations applied to an entire half of the population. I think women in the 17th century, whether they're native, whether they're African-American, probably living in some kind of bondage or slavery, or whether they're European and Euro-American, man, any of those broads, I would not wanna meet one of them in a dark alley, because you have to think about the toughness, the resilience, the smarts that it takes just to survive transplantation, either voluntarily or involuntarily. And then, giving birth in 17th century conditions, creating a flourishing family. I [00:47:00] think a lot of those women were very powerful in their communities, even if they weren't officially powerful in terms of having land ownership or able to own their own property, if they were married women, or having any kind of legal standing. I think these women really were able to wield a great deal of authority and, if not control in their communities, at least that's how I look at them. I would say just to remember what a powerful person that you already are. I think there's a lot of catastrophizing discourse that young people expose themselves to when they talk themselves out of feeling that they have any kind of power or volition or control over their own lives. And I think if they put down the social media, if they put down their darn phones, look I'm not saying I've mastered the art of self-control when it comes to that, certainly not. I should put down my own damn phone once in a while too, right? But I I think if people, as the kids say, if they touched [00:48:00] grass, if they worked together face-to-face with one another, if they engaged in real political activism, which is not going on social media and making snarky comments or likes, right? But real political action, which is writing to your congressman, your senator, your state representatives, starting a march, going down to organize with real people face-to-face. I think if more people acknowledge, that more young women acknowledge, the power that they did have as the next, as the future mothers and grandmothers of the next few generations, potentially, if that's a direction they think they would want to pursue in their lives, then I think that would actually go a great long way to fortifying their spirits and getting people to pay attention to them. Sarah Jack: And that is a power that we have today, that in the past they could not collaborate on. Ann Little: That's right. Yeah. Women can vote, women can organize, women can run for the House, the Senate, Congress, whatever. Yeah, [00:49:00] absolutely. And I think that young people are too easily talked out of their own power and self-control. And I think we, at least what I try to do as a professor, is to try to talk people up and give them encouragement and try to get them to see really how great things are, certainly compared to their great-grandmothers and their great, great-grandmothers generations. And even then, that wasn't so bad compared to, I don't know, Salem 1692, where the only power that some of those young women felt was the power to tear somebody down, right, to bring down an older, maybe more authoritative woman. Now young women have the power to get as much education as they want, to do anything they want, to get any kind of job they want, to travel anywhere they want, and I think that we need to remind them of that and what a unique and marvelous thing that is. I think that sometimes we women in the West are a little too solipsistic about some of [00:50:00] the irritations of our lives, at least things that might look only like mere irritations if you compare it to women who are living under really extreme authoritarian control as they are again in Afghanistan under the Taliban. Josh Hutchinson: You talked about how women can move forward. How do men move forward past that hierarchical thinking and the misogyny? Ann Little: I think if they remember why women are smaller and weaker and have evolved to be more agreeable and not to argue as much, if they remember that our bodies are designed to nurture the next generation. Again, I think it's part of this whole disconnection from the reproductive cycle that is really novel in all of human history, if you think about it, maybe going back about a hundred, 150 years to more reliable, to the invention of vulcanized rubber at the end of the 19th [00:51:00] century, where you get more reliable forms of birth control. I think that if men can remember that we are a sexually dimorphic species and that it's only half of us who have the pleasure or the burden of nurturing the next generation in our own bodies. And it's not even just pregnancy and childbirth, right? It's also the whole period of infancy. I don't know if either of you have children, but if you have children, you've probably heard of this idea of the the fourth trimester that was popular when I had my baby about 20 years ago now. The fourth trimester, that is that human infants can only be nurtured inside the mother's body so long, because the human head is so enormous relative to the human, adult female pelvis. So the baby's essentially still a fetus for the first three months or so after it's born. That's the whole idea of the fourth trimester. And so even if a woman is not breastfeeding for whatever reason, for personal choice or inability or whatever, there's still a [00:52:00] very deep and powerful bond between mother and baby that is undeniable. And that is uniquely a responsibility, I would say, of the female parent. Sarah Jack: That's beautiful. And it's so interesting some of the really important elements that you've brought up today, especially about the current generation of women and how far we've come and our opportunities. We think about this legacy of patriarchy and misogyny and how it's impacted us, but are we forgetting how much of it is not impacting us at this point and how much of it we can kick off our shoes? Ann Little: I'm friends with a local meat farmer here in Greeley, and she was over for tea with me a couple months ago, and she was talking to me about the TV show [00:53:00] Yellowstone. And she said she really enjoyed the show, because I guess it shows the same family at like different points in American history. And she was really enjoying the episodes that were set in the late 19th century and about this ranching family, and she said that she really enjoyed the show, because it shows the women as incredibly strong and in control in this show. Josh Hutchinson: They've done two prequels to the show. They did a 1883 and a 1923. The matriarchs of the family are very powerful and brave and fierce and defend their clan. Ann Little: Yeah. Maybe women need to remember that even if women as women don't always win, right? There are generations of women who dedicated their lives to, whatever the survival and the enrichment of their families, the persistence of whatever ideas or beliefs that they wanted to advance. There are women who [00:54:00] were working and doing all this stuff and who were enormously effective and that we patronize them. We do them a disservice if we just pretend nothing ever happened for women before Betty Friedan in 1963. And I'm not saying that I think even young women today, probably don't, can't even think before 1980 or 1990. I don't mean to put down Betty Friedan, but I think that there's just a lot of solipsism that's still that's come out of the second wave feminist movement that we need to get beyond and again take this longer view of human history and of women's history. Sarah Jack: And what was the word that you used just now? Ann Little: Oh, solipsism, self-centeredness, naval gazing, thinking that the only history that's relevant to my life is the history that goes back to my grandparents' generation and no farther. Sarah Jack: This story that you're referring to, one of the things that really draws you into it is because you think these women were unique and it's also believable, [00:55:00] so then you're thinking, was my ancestor this way? So it was really smart storytelling, but it does also really illustrate the power that women could have had, did have then. Ann Little: Native American people look back to Pontiac and Tecumseh, right, as these great and powerful warriors who fought the good fight. They didn't win. No, but they still revere their ancestors, right? I think that women need to do a better job of revering our ancestors. And if saying that, look, we might not agree with all of their viewpoints. We might not think that they actually were very successful in what they were trying to do. Or if they were successful, we might not approve of the morality of whatever it was that they were trying to accomplish. But I think women are very eager to cast aside previous generations of women and to, I know I was as a young woman, to proceed with the arrogance of youth rather [00:56:00] than a reverence for the ancestors. Sarah Jack: It's important to have those conversations with our mothers, and if we have them, our grandmothers and great grandmothers, to find out how did they triumph in their lives. Ann Little: I think so. Well, Sarah, you've got a lot of really strong women in your family history, even just going by the accused witches. Sarah Jack: Absolutely. And one of the things that strikes out about Rebecca Nurse's story is she was not, she'd been in bed for over a week. She was 70 years old. Ann Little: She probably did a lot of muttering though. You can understand why they would think she's a witch. All that muttering. Sarah Jack: Despite her state of health and age, and from the record you can see she was shocked to get swept up in what was happening, she still defended herself and articulated a lot of very poignant declarations, [00:57:00] statements of innocency. So despite this horror that she was in physically, emotionally with her community, in front of all of her huge family, she stood strong. She was an accused that never pointed a finger at another person and never said, "okay, you got me. I did that horrible thing." So I am proud of that. And I'm very, I'm thrilled that we can even know that about her. And I think her story's really important. That's just one woman. She wasn't the only person in that era who had that kind of wherewithal. Ann Little: That's right. And you're right you're fortunate. It's unfortunate what happened to her, but you're fortunate that you've got this eloquent testimony. Josh Hutchinson: There's one woman I'm thinking of right now I read about in Witch Craze, and she did eventually [00:58:00] confess, but not until something like the 16th round of torture, and she had been left on the rack for five hours. Ann Little: Yeah. Those German cases are just brutal, aren't they, just really brutal. And the Scottish, like the Scottish cases, just the depths of torture and degradation that those women were subjected to. It's amazing that they all didn't confess and name a hundred other people. Sarah Jack: It always strikes me that they survived through all of that torture to even get to their execution, cuz it was just so extreme. Ann Little: In Native American history, we learn about the Warrior's Song, and that is the expectation among a lot of eastern woodlands indigenous communities, like the Iroquois and the Haudenosaunee and the Algonkians and Wabanaki, as well. The Warrior song is the expectation that a captured warrior will not dishonor himself by crying and mewling and begging [00:59:00] for his life. And that even as he's being tortured to death in this kind of ritual execution, he's going to be brave and laugh at the blows and the arrows and the brands that are thrown on the fire to burn him to death. He's going to laugh and say, "oh, is that all you got? Come on. You can do better than that." There's this kind of like macho celebration of his manhood, his essential essence, and that's part of the whole ritual is that the best captives are going to show just how manly they are, how powerful they are by never crying or mewling or going to their deaths like children. And I, I really think that, maybe we should see some of these women who are executed for witchcraft like some of these brave warriors, singing their Warrior Song. Like why can't Rebecca Nurse, as disabled and elderly as she was, why can't we see her as this heroic person in American history, who's saying, "why are you listening to these nutty girls like this? This doesn't make any sense. There is [01:00:00] no evidence for this." That's a kind of Warrior Song that these women are engaging in, but we don't remember them as heroes. We remember them, as you said at the beginning of our conversation, as curiosities, exotic curiosities, right? Sarah Jack: You're absolutely right. And her sister, Mary Esty, who was on the last date of executions, hanged, she wrote a very eloquent petition asking that no more be hanged, but her plea was strong for them to get ahold of themselves and move forward from what was happening. And she was doing that for the other women and some men, as well, but she was thinking about the rest of us and not just herself. Ann Little: I always really appreciated Arthur Miller's play The Crucible. I'm sure you're familiar with it. But I [01:01:00] really think that he overlooks the female heroism in the women, and in order to hold up John Proctor as his protagonist in that play. I've never really thought about it before, but, Sarah, your comments just now made me think of that. Sarah Jack: I'm so glad that that came out of this conversation today, cause I'm even thinking about when we had a conversation with author Katherine Howe, she talked about Hawthorne taking words from a woman and putting them into a man's character. And we do need to look back at these women that were living through these histories and pull out those heroic moments and celebrate those. Ann Little: I think so, and I think we have to ask why we're so adverse to female heroism, why we don't want to recognize it. My first book, I wrote a book called Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England. And one of the first book talks I gave about that book was to an audience at a university. And [01:02:00] one of the women in the audience raised her hand, and she was like, wow. She's of course we know that both men and women are involved in warfare. We both know that, especially in, early American warfare, really any warfare except for maybe 19th century sort of massed battlefield warfare, right? Where civilians are necessarily involved, right? Civilians are necessarily implicated all the way through, for the most part, except for maybe a few 19th century set pieces, right? But even then, I think there were a lot of civilians involved. She said, "look, we know that women are involved in warfare. We know that women sacrifice, women suffer, and yet it's all erased." And yet every book that we write, except for mine, I guess, every book we write and every book we read about warfare in the past is that it's all this sort of story of male sacrifice and male heroism, and I think we have to think about why we're so reluctant to see women as heroic. Sarah Jack: So it's not necessarily that women's history is invisible, it's these elements of their [01:03:00] history that we're leaving invisible. Ann Little: Or that we're just refusing to recognize and talk about and commemorate. This is the thing I tell students is that yes, it is more difficult to research women's history than men's history, just because of the politics of literacy and the fact that there are many fewer records written by women in all periods up until the, I assume, the 20th or later 20th century. But I don't do research then, so I don't, yeah, that's somebody else's problem. But yeah, certainly in my period, there's overwhelmingly historical written sources are left by men compared to women. But on the other hand, if you just start looking, if you start asking the questions, if you start pulling that thread, as they say, you can find women everywhere doing really interesting things, and there's plenty of historical evidence of it. And all you have to do is ask the question. It's really not a matter of finding sources, it's just a matter of asking the right questions and having some curiosity. Josh Hutchinson: Now here's Sarah with an [01:04:00] important update. Sarah Jack: End Witch Hunts News. The true, knowledgeable history of accused witches of the past and present is news. The historic women who were executed and tortured, due to witch fear are today's news, because their stories have been buried, misrepresented, sensationalized, but now we uncover it. Today, they are being recognized by many advocates and activists. Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast honors women in history with the planning and producing of every episode. Both Josh and I create our message with intention, and we are just getting started. Dr. Ann Little pointed out today in many aspects that 17th century American colonial women's history is encapsulated as witch trial history. The other women's history during these times isn't in the snapshot, and the witch trials are considered obscured history. Witch trial history has been a portrayal of bad women, their innocence ardently doubted. This perception is hiding the historical record and diminishing other women's history, as well. There is more to [01:05:00] women's history than witch trials, but it's been narrated to us this way. Thank you for tuning into our episodes to learn and share the important stories that our guests have researched and revealed about ordinary, strong women of the past who faced harsh, unjust treatment. I have enjoyed every phase of creating the episodes we've made, featuring expert women, historians and authors and determined victim descendants. The women you have heard on this podcast are pouring their skills and creativity into the stories of these historic women and making history known, inspiring all the generations of women who are working for women's liberties. Not only am I resisting the coverup of the stories of historic women, I am resisting the dismissal of the hundreds of thousands of modern women accused and harmed for witchcraft crimes. I'll continue to talk about it here, and you need to continue to talk about it with your sphere of influence. Please go to the show description for the link to read the current Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is a study on the situation of the violations and abuses of [01:06:00] human rights, rooted in harmful practices related to the accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks, as well as stigmatization. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights states that the findings depict the severity of human rights violations and abuses rooted in harmful practices related to accusations of witchcraft and ritual attacks. It also describes the adverse human rights impacts on persons in vulnerable situations and the factors that affect their vulnerability. The office concludes that additional efforts, including more comprehensive data gathering and further research, are needed to develop a greater understanding of the various aspects of this complex problem. It recommends a number of actions, such as developing comprehensive frameworks for prevention. Do you realize what they're saying? Prevention takes the development of comprehensive frameworks. Have you listened to last week's episode with Dr. Boris Gershman? Please do. And if you have, keep his findings in mind as you read the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights' findings. Now, think about what today's episode said about women's sexuality and fertility in [01:07:00] connection with witch hunting. As you hear this reported finding from the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. They note that in some countries persistent patriarchal norms confine women to their reproductive role and legitimize harmful practices, including the accusation of witchcraft and the social exclusion of women and girls accused of practicing witchcraft. Reportedly, women who do not fulfill gender stereotypes, such as widows, childless, or unmarried women are at increased risk of accusations of witchcraft and systemic discrimination. Other marginalized groups include older women, women with disabilities, mothers of children with albinism, indigenous women, women belonging to minorities and lower castes, women of African descent, and women of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, gender expressions, and sex characteristics. Vulnerability, marginalized, patriarchal norms, reproductive roles. These are systematic layers of witch hunting that shape witch hunting [01:08:00] past and propel witch hunting now. This systemic exploit brings relevance to the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, to bill HJ 34, Resolution Concerning Certain Witchcraft Convictions in Colonial Connecticut. There are currently 22 bipartisan Connecticut legislators who are supporting the exoneration by co-sponsoring the bill. The bill must be voted on in the Joint Committee on Judiciary. Please continue to write Connecticut legislators of all political parties, asking them to sponsor the bill and to vote yes. Please go to our show description for the link to today's press conference held by Senator. Saud Anwar in state representative Jane Garibay. Please listen to the statement of support by Connecticut's Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz. Take time to understand what historian Dr. Kathy Hermes states at this conference. Share the bold words that author Beth Caruso, student Catherine Carmon, and descendant Sue Bailey arm us with. Arm yourself with the facts of history, and find yourself a platform to work with us and [01:09:00] share the message. Will you take time today to write a member of the judiciary committee asking them to recognize the relevance of exonerating Connecticut witch trial victims? You can do this whether you are a Connecticut resident or anywhere else in the world. You should do it from right where you are. You can find the information you need to contact a committee member with a letter in the show links. You can follow our progress by joining our Discord community or Facebook groups. Please use all your communications channels to be an intervener. The world must stop hunting witches. Please follow our project on social media @ctwitchhunt and visit our website at connecticutwitchtrials.org. The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project is a project of End Witch Hunts movement. End Witch Hunts is a nonprofit organization founded to educate about witch trial history and advocate for alleged witches. Please support us with your donations or purchase of educational Witch trial books and merchandise. You can shop our merge at zazzle.com/store/endwitchhunts, [01:10:00] zazzle.com/store/thoushaltnotsuffer, and shop our books at bookshop.org/shop/endwitchhunts, we want you as a super listener, you can help keep the Thou Shalt Not Suffer Podcast in production by super listening with your monthly monetary support. See episode description for links to these support opportunities. We thank you for standing with us and helping us to create a world that is safe from witchcraft accusations. Josh Hutchinson: Thank you, Sarah. Sarah Jack: You're welcome. Josh Hutchinson: In this episode, we've learned about the treatment of women through history, through the lens of witch trials. We've learned why women were victimized, why they were targeted disproportionately to men. And we've learned how we still see echoes of the past today, and we're still progressing [01:11:00] towards a period when women are no longer victimized by witch hunts. We learned how early modern attitudes persist today and how they need to be changed and talked about what can be done to change our perspectives and grow. Sarah Jack: One of the perspectives that Dr. Little shared, which I greatly appreciated, was to encourage women right now to recognize the power that their grandmothers and those before them had and used, even if it was unofficial, but now we have some official power. We have unofficial power, as well. But how can we use that, and how can we [01:12:00] collaborate together as women to do important things and make changes? Josh Hutchinson: Thank you for listening to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. Sarah Jack: Join us next week. Josh Hutchinson: Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. Sarah Jack: Visit thoushaltnotsuffer.com Josh Hutchinson: Remember to tell your friends, acquaintances, neighbors, family, enemies, frenemies, and dogs to listen to Thou Shalt Not Suffer: The Witch Trial Podcast. Sarah Jack: It's so important to support our efforts to End Witch Hunts. Visit endwitchhunts.org to learn more. Josh Hutchinson: Have a great today and a beautiful tomorrow. [01:13:00]