7 Pages


From the Gallows to Unofficial Abolition during Four Centuries
WithLawrence B. Goodheart

Remarkably, only 18 females, or eight percent of a total of 157 people in Connecticut, were judicially executed in civilian adjudication between the first execution in 1639 and the last in 2005. Nine, or half, of those females were condemned witches concentrated in the period from 1647 to 1663 (see Box E1). Only two men, the hapless husbands of condemned witches, were executed for that crime. With religious tension and social stress rife at the mid-seventeenth century in the Puritan village, misogyny focused on women on the margins of respectability, including conjurers and healers, as scapegoats. Female sexuality came to the fore in folk belief: the witch entertained familiarity with Satan, allowing the “dark one” to suckle on unnatural teats. Anxiety about reproduction and survival of the community focused on postmenopausal women who were the antithesis of fecund maternity. The inability to lactate, for example, raised the specter of maleficium.