In this essay I will explore to what degree the Salem witch trials in 1692 were the result of a gender based prejudice against women in general. I will be using three books which show the reasons people accused, people who accused, and everyone else involved in the trials as well as explanations. The books are written by female authors, all of which agree that the witch trials were sexist towards women in one way or another. Were women accused more because of existing beliefs in those times of the fallibility of the female sex to succumb to temptations? Because of apprehensions and fears of the changing role of women in society and the strict religious views of the Puritan population at that time? Were the witch hunts a manifestation of social, economics, demographic and psychological conflicts within the community? Was this caused by a mass hysteria at the time? The community of Salem had endured some harsh realities prior to and during the witch trials of 1692-1693. There was a changing government both at the colonial level as well as in England. They had endured harsh winters, fear of attacks from Indian Tribes as well as a growing divide between Salem Village and Salem Town.The reasons behind the witch accusations are merely subjective. In this investigation, the facts will be presented in order to help shape the readers idea and opinion based on the records and conclusions historians have produced. I will postulate that gender players a very significant role but was not the only factor that influenced the accusations, trials and executions of significantly more women than men.The Salem witch trials started early in 1692, after some young girls in Salem were said to be possessed by the devil and accused several locals of witchcraft. As a consequence of these accusations a special court was brought to Salem in order to hear the cases.Salem Village, where the witch hunt took place, was a little town in Massachusetts with no more than 600 residents. There was a political impasse between the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the English authorities, there were also economic tensions between Salem Town (who had 1400 residents) and Salem Village about the agricultural and commercial interests.Background information- the political and economic situation and the position of the female:Salem Village was a farming community which had the desire to become independent from Salem Town. The town had developed into an urban center where the port and businesses were an important part of the economy, unlike in the village. The villagers felt that the township’s people were losing their dedication to god and puritan ways and beliefs.Having your own church and parish minister was a very important step in gaining independence. Salem Village was eventually successful and so came Preacher Samuel Parris. The town had both religious and political authority over the Village, but about half of the residents in the village felt they shouldn’t be ruled by anyone other than themselves and Parris was the leader they had hoped for; he too wanted independence from Salem Town.The villagers who favored the independence surrounded and gathered around Parris and his friends, the Putnams, who owned most of the land used for farming in the village. The Putnams were entangled in a bitter feud with the Porter family. Thomas Putnam was left out of his family’s inheritance which had passed to his brother who then married into the rival Porter family. The Porter family became an important political and economic family in the town. Thomas Putnam himself made 43 accusations of witchcraft and his daughter Ann Putnam Jr. made 62 accusations.To what degree did gender play a role?Throughout history witchcraft has always been more typically associated with women. From the very earliest bible story of Adam and Eve women were portrayed to be more susceptible to surrender to temptation. Of the several hundred thousand people accused of witchcraft in Europe 85% of the accused were women. In New England between 1620 and 1725 of the 342 people that can be identified by sex 78% were female. The remaining percent that were men were usually “suspect by association”, in other words husbands, sons or even men who spoke out against the witch trials. A female accused in this period in New England was far more likely to be brought to trial (roughly 37% of women accused who brought to trial in contrast to 17% of the men accused). Throughout the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts, during the 17th century, 20 people were prosecuted and executed after being accused of witchcraft – 14 of those were women.Being female meant you were more susceptible to being considered a witch as the Puritans believed Satan was male and he assaulted the body through sexual transgressions, therefore eliminating the possibility that men could be assaulted by Satan. The witches’ familiars were thought to have “sucked at the breasts” which provided nourishment for their familiars and their imps. As women breastfed their infants, this reinforced the idea that there was a relationship between witches and females.Women tended to be surrounded by tasks that dealt with the survival of the community such as delivering babies, or being a healer. A witch was thought to interfere with the natural process of life and death, in some cases being by preventing conception, causing miscarriages, or delivering deformed babies. Midwives who delivered dead or unhealthy babies were also thought to be related to witchcraft in some way. On the other hand, women were also accused if they cured or relived people that were thought to be a lost cause and that couldn’t be cured by other doctors, as well as safely delivering infants that were not expected to survive. The medical knowledge of the time was reserved for learned and elite members of society making it impossible for women to achieve a medical degree. It was purely a man’s profession and only men were allowed access to this knowledge. The fact that women understood much more about the woman’s body, menstrual cycle and child birth ostracized and frightened the men who considered this knowledge by women as sinister. According to Mark C. Wallace, if a man had a grudge he would take action, whereas women didn’t have the ability and were restricted by their political and marital aspirations to act out on their feelings. Therefore, the assumption is that they had to take covert action which can be led to believe they participated in witchcraft. A case that can relate to this reason is Martha Corey, who, after disagreeing with her husband who was going to see one of the trials, was imprisoned and eventually accused of being a witch.In 1486, Dominicans Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kraemer released a book called Malleus Malificarum (translated as Hammer of the Witch). It re-enforced the concept of male superiority and prejudices against women as well as spread misogynistic ideas to the public. Historian Selma Williams examined the book and found multiple sexist statements in it: “A greater number of witches is found in the fragile feminine sex than among men”; “There are more women than men found infected with the heresy of witchcraft . . . blessed be the highest who has preserved the male sex from so great a crime”; “A woman is by her nature more quicker to waver in her faith and consequently quicker to abjure the faith, which is the root of witchcraft”. This spread fear and hatred against women and witches across the land. “If a woman dare to cure without having studied than she is a witch and must die”, according to Malleus Malificarum.As well as the fear and hatred against women, a slightly different attitude towards women in that period were expressed in two papers published nearly simultaneously by Cotton Mathers (one of the religious leaders of the Boston Colony), in 1692. In his first paper “Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion” The preface states that his purpose was to “…promote a fear of God in the female sex” (ed. The Devil in the shape of a woman p. 179). In his follow up paper where he referenced several testimonies from the Salem witch trials “Wonders of the Invisible World” he focuses on “Women’s complicity in Satan’s attempts to overthrow the churches of New England”.Why were people accused of witchcraft? Being financially independent as a woman during that time was dangerous. You were more susceptible to being accused than other women. The men in Bridget Bishop’s life weren’t always there; they were transitory, money, on the other hand, wasn’t. One day, a woman name Whatford, accused her of stealing a spoon in which Bridget scorned at her as she hadn’t in fact stolen anything. As retaliation, Whatford claimed that Bridget had taken her down to the beach and tried to drown her – another false accusation. She was the first woman to stand trial. The witnesses were mostly men who had come with complaints with erotic overtones: claiming she had snuck into their bedrooms late at night and tried to strangle them or, inserting things into their mouths, causing the death of their children and many more accusations. She was hung June tenth.According to records, the witch hunt started in the home of Reverend Samuel Parris, when his two young daughters suffered breakdowns, seizures and fits. The local doctor couldn’t come up with a medical explanation so he came to the conclusion that their condition was “The evil hand is upon them”, caused by witchcraft. Studies of the time have suggested that the reason for the girl’s behavior could have been caused by the virus Encephalitis Lethargica, however DNA testing of the remains of some of the population have disproven this theory. The surrounding neighbors, after hearing the news that the Reverends daughters were conditioned to witchcraft, started panicking, and unfortunately before eleven months had passed, twenty people were executed. The first accused during the Salem Witch Trials was Tituba Indian, a slave in the Parris household. Tituba was also the first to confess to witchcraft, and to admit to being part of a coven, in order to delay her sentence, this way there was a precedent pattern that would run the course of the trials – accused witches would confess and accuse another, therefore, validating the previous accusation and allowing the court to investigate further as they desire. It could be said that the trials only happened as a consequence of Tituba’s confession confirming the colonist’s underlying fears and giving them reason to investigate further.Some of the young women of Salem would practice fortune-telling which involved breaking an egg onto a plate and reading meaning into the shapes. This act was forbidden and if you were caught you would have to face punishment at home and occasionally humiliation at the church. In 1692 however, a physician cleared the young girls of guilt by proclaiming them the victims of witchcraft and sorcery. Nevertheless, being a victim of sorcery gave them a license to break rules. Girls who hadn’t gotten the attention they wanted now felt important and pitied as they were ‘victims of sorcery’. It is suggested that the reasons why people accused others of witchcraft tended to be because they were struggling with something, whether it be financial problems, marital prospects or other reasons. Abigail Faulkner is one of the many tragic cases that took place in Salem. In 1687 her father-in-law died leaving his son with the inheritance. Soon after, Abigail’s husband became too ill to be able to assume responsibility of his affairs, resulting in Abigail having no choice but to take charge of the family estate. Most men at that time were waiting for that kind of privilege which put a target in Abigail’s back – in 1692 Abi Faulkner was charged with witchcraft along with her two daughters, her sister, Elizabeth Johnson, her sister-in-law, Deliverance Dane, her two nieces and her nephew.It seems she was killed due to her independence and the privilege of taking charge of the family estate.Martha Carrier, whose son’s case will be mentioned further down, exhibited far too much independence for a woman of her status at her time. In 1690, she and her children caught smallpox which ended up spreading to her family and neighbors. 13 people ended up dying after this outbreak, 6 of them being of her family. Martha’s husband was now in line to inherit an estate, which made the villagers question whether the men in her family had died coincidently or if some form of witchcraft was being used by Martha. Once Salem’s afflicted girls caught sight of the situation Martha was in they immediately pounced. When she was brought to trial, she scolded the magistrates for believing the preposterous assertions these girls were making. “It is a shameful thing, that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits.” she cried. The girls started screaming in agony after Martha’s boldness. “All the afflicted fell into most intolerable outcries & agony” Reverend Samuel Parris wrote in his notes. The screeching was so excruciating that guards had to be called in to take Martha out of the courtroom. Between the status she held, the men that had died around her and, the way she objected in court, we’re all factors that led to her execution. “She died well,” said one observer. Another similar case to Martha Carriers was Martha Corey. Martha gave birth to a mulatto son in ’77 and spent ten years raising him while her husband brought up their white child. One night her husband wanted to watch the first witch suspects being question, which Martha criticized him for. Her husband left anyway and told everyone about her flare and on March 12th two church deacons came to her house. Eight days later, at her trial, Abigail Williams, one of the accusers, pointed her finger to the ceiling claiming that she could see Martha’s specter sitting on one of the beams with a yellow bird. She then continued to “follow the bird” with her finger down to the Reverends hat. Martha didn’t confess to anything, in fact, she denied ever being involved in witchcraft and claimed she was innocent over and over again. She was hung the 22nd of September due to her disagreement with her husband and, most likely, the fact that she gave birth to a mulatto son.Richard Carrier, 18, was tortured into confessing after he and his family (especially his mother) were accused of witchcraft. The church used a technique called ‘tied neck & heels’ which consisted in being strung up by the hands and feet, facing down. At first Richard refused to confess but after a while he changed his tune and confessed to signing Satan’s book, attending witch meetings and other dark activities. Not only did he confess, but he also accused several jailed suspects including his mother and aunt. He rapidly joined the accusers thinking that it was his only chance at survival although his plan backfired and he landed himself in prison along with his brother. Within a few weeks his sister and younger brother were also thrown in prison. Richard coached them in what to say in court. All siblings except Andrew, accused their mother. Upon conviction and execution of their mother (Martha Carrier, on August 19th 1692) they were all released from jail in 1693. The reason he was convicted is thought to be because his mother was accused and therefore everyone else believed maybe the family was a coven and they were all witches. Why did people accuse?History has the afflicted girls as selfish fakers who fueled the witchcraft trials out of boredom. This doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone, Ann Putman Jr., 12, was brought into the Salem witch hunt as her parents’ pawn. Her parents believed they were cursed as they were cheated out of their rightful inheritances and they endured the loss of seven new born children which, as a consequence, made them channel their frustrations into the witch hunt. Her parents and the minister fed her names. She appears in over 400 court documents in which she is listed as one of the “afflicted girls.”Taking into account the cases described above, there’s a similar pattern in all of them that drove the accusers to do what they did. They were discontent with something in their life and/or afraid. The reasons behind the accusations, as you can see and as in the examples mentioned above, are subjective – there are no reasonable explanations or justifications of the sort.Elizabeth Hubbard was the orphaned maidservant to Dr. William Griggs, who purchased Hubbard from Boston after the death of his son. Her age is unclear as some say she was born in 1674 and others say 1675. Hubbard experienced her first recorded fit on February 1, 1692. By the end of the trial Elizabeth Hubbard had testified against twenty-nine people, seventeen of whom were arrested, thirteen of those were hanged, and two died in jail. Those who were executed during the witch trials were mainly victims that refused to give in to the accusations or questioned the magistrate’s judgment on believing the afflicted. Most of the time they weren’t only accused of witchcraft – they tended to have previous accusations of adultery, fornication, and other sexual related crimes. Such as the case of Susannah Martin, who was accused of infanticide and tormenting people with her specter. The end of the trials:As 1692 passed into 1693, the hysteria began to lose steam. The governor of the colony, upon hearing that his wife was accused of witchcraft ordered an end to the trials. However, in total 20 people and two dogs were executed for the crime of witchcraft in Salem.It wasn’t until January 1697 that the General Court of Massachusetts would admit it’s mistake and mourn over the tragic losses that took place at the hand of the people of Salem. The court claimed the trials unlawful and judge Samuel Sewall apologized for the role he played throughout the arraignments. Massachusetts passed legislation to reestablish the names of the people condemned and provided financial help to their inheritors in 1711 in an attempt to heal the damage the Salem Witch Trials had caused throughout the colony.Conclusions: The Salem Witch Trials were the most controversial trials which prompted the incarceration and detainment of over 150 people, 19 of which were executed for witchcraft and one pressed to death because he refused to confess. Neither age, fortune, gender or church membership offered immunity from the accusations of witchcraft. According to the information and cases presented above, there is no single factor that led people to accuse, be accused, or be executed. The general prejudice towards women at the time is the reason that there were more women than men being accused and executed. The role that biased judgements against women played however can’t be disregarded.The general prejudice against women definitely was the main reason that there were more women than men being accused and executed. The social process that led to women being accused of being witches required that the townspeople as well as the religious authorities believed that women were more of a threat to society than men. To the clergy it was subversion of Creation and to the people it was a subversion of the sexual order. Accused women were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t: If they confessed to the witchcraft charges the confessions were used to prove the case against them; if they denied the charges it was seen as a refusal to admit sin which could mark them as sinners and allies of the devil.Religion also played an almost equally important role during the accusations and trials.The fear of the devil that filled the colony reflected itself on the way the magistrates and tribunals reacted and handled the witch situation. The Puritans goal was to purify the organization of the church and rid it of the devil. In this regard the deferred to the bible with regards to witch craft, ¨Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live¨(book of Exodus). As mentioned before, the puritans wanted to rid the church of the devil, this can be related to the fact that they see females to be the more susceptible, fragile sex and more likely to fall under the Devils temptation. The reason behind this can be because of Eve, who fell under the temptation in the garden of Eden and ate the forbidden fruit. Economic factors also played a role, as women tended to rely on the male for financial help, in the cases that they were financially independent they became a target for the witch trials, such as the cases of Karlsen, who had no male heirs; Abigail Faulkner, who took charge of the family estate when her husband became ill and; Susannah Martin, who had an ongoing court dispute over her father’s will. It was uncommon for women to be able to survive by themselves, let alone take care of a family. It wasn’t so much the economic class of the women accused as it was their economic independence.The political situation Salem Village was suffering during that time which also influenced a large amount in the trials, especially in the early stages of it all as it began in the house of the new minister Samuel Parris. He was instrumental in the village’s drive towards independence from the township. Parris was a failed merchant who had lost his family inheritance through mismanagement. His position of some importance in Salem village was his last chance at dignity and financial security. The trials were fueled by jealousy, hatred, and boredom. People turned against each other, family members turned on each other, marriages were torn apart and people lost their lives – those were the consequences of the Salem Witch Trials.In order to gather information for this investigation, I investigated multiple sources online as well as three books in order to get a wider grasp and more perspectives of the situation to try and understand all visions. And, although, I thought it would be easy to find reliable information in books and articles, I have found limitations that have made my investigation harder than I expected. The limitations, not only for my investigation but for everyone relying on another source, depends mostly on the fact that no-one will ever know with absolute certainty the exact happenings of the past, which is why it’s difficult to get reliable information for investigations without it being biased or influenced in some way. Another limitation I found is that archived-based history may lack certain specific data available, that would be useful for an analysis, that no longer can be collected which creates a challenge in the reliability and accuracy of the investigation. The reliability of a source will depend on the author, the time the source came about and the region, as well as its acceptance among scholars as well as academic publications.In my opinion, nothing is unbiased whether we like it or not. People remember things how they want to which as a consequence makes historical events biased. All versions of history are viable but not 100% accurate.