Confessing to "Familiarity with the Devils." Mary Johnson, a servant, was executed by Connecticut officials in 1648. A wealthy Boston widow, Ann Hibbens, was hanged in 1656 for casting spells on her neighbors. In 1662, Ann Cole was "taken with very strange Fits," and fueled an outbreak of witchcraft accusations in Hartford a generation before the notorious events in Salem took place. The witch-hunting hysteria that seized New England in the late seventeenth century still haunts us today. Why were these and other women likely witches? Why were certain people vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft and possession? In this fascinating work, Professor Carol Karlsen of the University of Michigan draws a compelling, richly detailed portrait of the women who were persecuted as witches. And in what Kirkus Reviews calls "an enlightening contribution to U.S. historical studies." The Devil in the Shape of a Woman gives us an unforgettable look at a society in transition, where fears and witch hunts were manifestations of much deeper sexual, religious, and economic tensions.
By Carol F. Karlsen. Paperback. 370 pages. Published by WW Norton Company, 1998.