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Damned Women: Sinners And Witches In Puritan New England
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Damned Women: Sinners And Witches In Puritan New England

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  122 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
In her analysis of the cultural construction of gender in early America, Elizabeth Reis explores the intersection of Puritan theology, Puritan evaluations of womanhood, and the Salem witchcraft episodes. She finds in that intersection the basis for understanding why women were accused of witchcraft more often than men, why they confessed more often, and why they frequently ...more
Hardcover, 212 pages
Published June 1st 1997 by Cornell University Press
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Kate M. Colby
I found this book to be a really interesting read. As the title suggests, it decribes how gender roles and assumptions affected the Puritans' views of sin, witchcraft, and relationships with the devil. While the focus was on women, the author also details how masculine norms informed these issues. Another intriguing topic was how the author traced the evolution of Satan, from an active, physical antagonist (as the Puritans believed) to a passive, distant punisher (more akin to modern religious b ...more
Aug 05, 2013 Lauren rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In the seventeenth century New England Puritan culture, the discourse of depravity can mainly be applied to women. During this time, women were looked on more as being sinful in mind and body, more of an internalization of themselves; whereas men’s sinful natures were more external and easier to forgive. Women’s sinfulness was in their nature and inherent, supposedly predisposed to sin. Due to the fact that women were naturally sinful it was much harder for them to prove their innocence in the w ...more
In Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England, a gender study of the Salem witch trials, Elizabth Reis seeks to answer some important questions. Why were women accused of witchcraft more often than men? Why did more women confess to witchcraft than men? And finally, why were women so ready to accuse one another of witchcraft? To answer these questions Reis forms a multifaceted thesis that follows the intersection of three lines of evidence: Puritan theology, women’s gender roles in ...more
I had to read it for school, but I do find the New England witch trials and related history really interesting, so I wasn't dreading reading this book by any means. However, despite some very interesting and well-researched claims, much of the book is obnoxioiusly repetitive. It should either have been shorter or she should have added more to her thesis, because as it was, the interesting points were quickly beaten to death. I kind of wanted to take a nap after reading the first five pages of ev ...more
Becki Basley
This was an interesting and a more understanding view of the Salem and other witch trials. It seemed to me that the Purtians before the horrid witch trails created their own version of hell by their own beliefs and their fears of possession of the devil. This book brings this out by showing evidence that they all believed that they were indeed all afflicted by the devil and therefore in some ways all witches. this led to the ones who confessed to this being allowed to live and those who did not ...more
John Rivera
Apr 11, 2011 John Rivera rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a book you will either love or hate.

It is very informative, very well cited, and highlights some aspects of Puritan society that are not well covered in more broader works, i.e. gender roles and faith, the notion of a feminine soul, and contains a very descriptive history of the Salem Witch Trails. However, this work is extremely repetitive. Themes that Reis conveys are very often repeated in the same chapter to an excessive degree and some times the amount of quotations can seem unnece
Jan 18, 2012 Jenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Gender studies, historians, Salem Witchcraft Trials
I found this book interesting due to well-established theory of the author. She takes the approach on how Puritans lived divided by genders and how that affected the Salem witchcraft trials. It's very focused and limited, not touching on other scholarships about these episodes. I also felt that the book was very repetitive. I can appreciate that she drove her point hard but it seemed like she was striving for length rather than making valid points more valid. It's not an introductory book so rea ...more
Mar 24, 2013 Jewels rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While this book gives a nod to Ms. Karlsen's work along the same lines, Ms. Reis keeps it more to a flowing narrative of the actual feelings and worries of the people around the time of the Salem Witchcraft Trials as well as a bit before and after. She uses vivid images of the devil and how he afflicted the people of those time periods, admitting that she doesn't buy into it but this is how frightened those people were of the devil being a real figure. She also gives a good example of the shift ...more
Robert Smith
Oct 27, 2011 Robert Smith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book is not as engaging as Salem Possessed. However, it gives very significant religious issues that help to fill in the blanks left by the account presented in Salem Possessed. This book would have been much better as possibly a 36 page article because the author is very redundant with many points. She beats the horse to death and then beats it some more heating the dead horse so much so that the horse becomes glue. It does provide helpful information though.
Jun 18, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful and engaging contribution to the existing corpus of historical research surrounding early modern New England and the witch trials of Salem. Examines the religious self identity of women within New England, the Puritan conception of a female soul and the impact such facets of New England life had upon the infamous Salem trials. A truly delightful book to use within one's own research.
Laura Schmidt
Apr 20, 2008 Laura Schmidt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was THE highlight of all of my college-course reads. It opens your eyes to issues relating to problems in culture (particularly between the sexes), history, and definitely religion. It is imperative to learn about past mistakes and sins of society (particularly within the undereducated fear-mongering mobs), so that we can identify and correct them in the present and future!
I had to read this for a History class, and while it isn't something I would think... "hmm... this sounds good... I'll read this." I was glad I did. It's amazing how the Witch Trials took place, and why it was women who were the ones being accused. This book dives deep into the WHY that might have been. Very interesting theories if I do say so myself.
Read for a history course at Baylor University
Sep 17, 2013 Marc rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Valuable and well-researched but rather limited in its aim; the thesis would have been just as convincing if explored in 60 pages rather than 212.
Justin rated it it was ok
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this book 1 1 Feb 20, 2008 08:02PM  
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  • Escaping Salem: The Other Witch Hunt of 1692
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  • The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege
  • Witchcraze: A New History of the European Witch Hunts
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  • The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry Into the Salem Witch Trials
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  • Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall
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  • The Pagan Book of Halloween: A Complete Guide to the Magick, Incantations, Recipes, Spells, and Lore
  • Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750
  • The Spinster and Her Enemies: Feminism and Sexuality 1880-1930
  • Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials

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