Full caption: Witches petition, ca. 1692. John Davis Batchelder Autograph Collection (vol. 11, item 1740). Manuscript Division. LC-MS-12021-A7 (color slide). Full caption: Witches petition, ca. 1692. John Davis Batchelder Autograph Collection (vol. 11, item 1740). Manuscript Division. LC-MS-12021-A7 (color slide).

People were executed for witchcraft throughout the colonies during the seventeenth century, but especially in Massachusetts. Many of the accused were women, prompting some recent historians to suggest that charges of witchcraft were a way of controlling women who threatened the existing economic and social order. In 1692 the famous Salem, Massachusetts, witchcraft trials took place, and that summer hundreds of people in the colony were arrested. Shown here is an appeal from ten women “besides thre or foure men” who were confined without trial in the Ipswich jail for many months. The petitioners—some “fettered with irons,” some pregnant, and all “weake and infirme”—request that they be released on “bayle” to stand trial the following spring so that they do not “perish with cold” during the winter months.

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