Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England by Elizabeth ReisDamned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England by Elizabeth Reis

Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England

byElizabeth Reis

Paperback | August 12, 1999

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In her analysis of the cultural construction of gender in early America, Elizabeth Reis explores the intersection of Puritan theology, Puritan evaluations of womanhood, and the Salem witchcraft episodes. She finds in those intersections the basis for understanding why women were accused of witchcraft more often than men, why they confessed more often, and why they frequently accused other women of being witches. In negotiating their beliefs about the devil's powers, both women and men embedded womanhood in the discourse of depravity.Puritan ministers insisted that women and men were equal in the sight of God, with both sexes equally capable of cleaving to Christ or to the devil. Nevertheless, Reis explains, womanhood and evil were inextricably linked in the minds and hearts of seventeenth-century New England Puritans. Women and men feared hell equally but Puritan culture encouraged women to believe it was their vile natures that would take them there rather than the particular sins they might have committed.Following the Salem witchcraft trials, Reis argues, Puritans' understanding of sin and the devil changed. Ministers and laity conceived of a Satan who tempted sinners and presided physically over hell, rather than one who possessed souls in the living world. Women and men became increasingly confident of their redemption, although women more than men continued to imagine themselves as essentially corrupt, even after the Great Awakening.
Title:Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New EnglandFormat:PaperbackDimensions:212 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.26 inPublished:August 12, 1999Publisher:Cornell University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0801486114

ISBN - 13:9780801486111

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Puritan Women and the Discourse of Depravity

1. Women's Sinful Natures and Men’s Natural Sins

2. Popular and Ministerial Visions of Satan

3. The Devil, the Body, and the Female Soul

4. Gender and the meanings of confession

5. Satan Dispossessed

Epilogue: Gender, Faith, and "Young Goodman Brown"


From Our Editors

The horrific events in Salem remain among the most controversial and fascinating in American history. In Damned Women, Elizabeth Reis examines the role of gender in the timing and course of events in Salem. Readers will learn about the contrived distinctions between women’s sinful natures and men’s natural sins in this provocative book.

Editorial Reviews

"An impressive book from which I learned a great deal."—John M. Murrin, Princeton University