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About the Author

Mary Beth Norton is Mary Donlon Alger Professor of History at Cornell University. She is the author of many books, including Liberty's Daughters: The Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800, also from Cornell; In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692; and Founding mostrar mais Mothers Fathers: Gendered Power and the Forming of American Society. mostrar menos


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An interesting and fun read on this seminal event in American history. Norton does a phenomenal job challenging many of the popularized caricatures of the Salem Witch Trials including feminist and rationalist interpretations. Far form being a coordinated attack on powerless women by powerful men, Norton shows that the Salem Witch "crisis" was far more women-led than we've been told. Women and their testimonies were overwhelmingly believed in the courtroom, not dismissed. Even men were counted among the victims by controversy's end!

I think Norton presents sufficient evidence to categorize the crisis as a product of Indian Wars more than anything else. The vast amount of overlap between victims of the paranormal activity and Indian brutality is hard to ignore. That the colonists in Essex county saw them as one and the same is also evident.
… (mais)
rdhasler | outras 18 resenhas | Nov 28, 2022 |
A fantastic book! Norton locates the Salem witch trials in their North American context, noting the impact of King Philip's war and King William's war on the psyche of the people, particularly on the Maine frontier. Her work is well researched and provides a fascinating perspective.
AmericanAlexandria | outras 18 resenhas | Jan 24, 2022 |
2.5 stars

In addition to looking at the accusations and trials of the “witches” in the Salem, Mass. area in the late 17th century, this author looks at other things happening in the area at the time to see if there is a connection. Specifically, the First and Second Indian Wars happened in the years leading up to the witch accusations and trials.

I do find the Salem witches an interesting topic, but a number of nonfiction books I’ve read about it (including this one) have not held my interest. I do find it hard, sometimes, to read books with a lot of quotations from other sources, and this one (and other books on this topic) has a lot of that.… (mais)
LibraryCin | outras 18 resenhas | Aug 6, 2020 |
Margaret Atwood has noted that one of her inspirations for the "Handmaid’s Tale" was her study of 17th-century Puritan New England. That note in itself might be a reason to dip into this book, and a reader would find some satisfying parallels. But this was not why I read it. I’ve had a long-time interest in the lives and experiences of women (woman studies, as you will) ; I’ve read Mary Beth Norton’s work before (her book on the Salem Witch Trials is one of the best I’ve read, if not the best). and because my family roots almost entirely pass through this period in 17th century New England (literally many hundreds of them) so I read out of interest and curiosity, and because it provides context to my ancestry pursuits (oh, and yes, I live in New England). I felt compelled to take copious notes while reading this book, likely one of the reason it took me so long to get through it, and I find these notes of little use in my effort to write a review of this book, nor did notes really enhance my reading (note to self: skip the notes).
"Founding Mothers and Fathers" is a balanced study of gendered power in the early 17th century colonies of America (roughly 1620-1670), it notes English political and societal precedents (Filmer and Locke’s formulations of political power and the nature of government authority) and how the precedents were applied in the development of the early colonies of America. Because of the availability of records, Norton focuses mostly on two New England colonies (Massachusetts Bay and New Haven) and two in the Chesapeake (Maryland & Virginia). She discusses gendered power within the family, the community and in the state, and how similar these institutions were to each other. She also discusses how differently New England and the Chesapeake develop according to the differing makeup of their populations and their priorities.

One of the strengths of this book is Norton’s inclusion of the voices of real people presented as articulated through court documents or personal writings. And her illustrative examples are both very welcome and wonderfully effective elucidating the practical functioning of the societies. Much more could be included in this review, and if needed, one can search for the copiously more detailed and erudite reviews for this book online. Otherwise, here is a very modest, off-the-top-of-my-head list of some of the many fascinating and interesting bits of content:

*The importance of good relations with neighbors.
*The authority and investigative powers of the midwife.
*The complications or limitations of a widow becoming a head of household.
*How very little men of the time knew about pregnancy & childbirth and that women were known to be ‘especially knowledgable of sexual matters
*The importance of guarding one’s reputation.
*The power and societal functions of gossip.
*In 1648 the New England colony adopted a death penalty for rebellious children over 16 who cursed or struck either parent (very few were prosecuted).
*The most common insults between men (rogue, knave) and between women (whore, jade, thief, toad, slut).
*How in New England the family was the considered the lowest court in the court system.
*The existence of divorce as a legally voided civil contract.
*To sue a wife you had to sue the husband.
*The exceptions to many of the rules and norms.
*That men had many ways to express their anger and thus possibilities of a vengeful attack was endless.
*The standard punishment in Plymouth for adultery was for the woman to wear a badge on their sleeve with the letters “AD” on it for a period of time, and if found without it, she would be branded on her face.
*A misbehaving colonist was more likely to be tried & convicted in NE than in the Chesapeake and differences in law enforcement.
*Whipping was the 2nd most popular punishment in both regions.
*How in a very gendered world, a Chesapeake court handled the case of an ambiguously gendered person.
… (mais)
1 vote
avaland | Mar 7, 2020 |



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