Poor crop yields, epidemics, war’s desolation, natural disasters, and festering jealousies-these were the cataclysmic tensions and ill omens to a pious Puritan priesthood of God’s displeasure and punishment to their “city on the hill” and their wavering, flagging parishioners.
God had deserted the Puritans, leaving fear of the devil and witches amiss in the New England villages. The strict Reformed Puritans were very intolerant, not only of witches, but also of any deviation from their Puritan orthodoxy and civic order.
Bridget Bishop was a rebellious outsider who deviated from the Puritan standards for women. She was constantly under suspicion due to her strong will, flamboyant life style, and outspoken tongue. Her livelihood as ordinary keeper and her thrice marriages brought criticism and scorn from her Puritan neighbors and the Puritan clergy. Cotton Mather’s June 1662 document advised and urged the Court of Oyer and Terminer to speedily and vigorously prosecute “such as have rendered themselves obnoxious.” Bridget Bishop was not the first to be accused and arrested, but she was the first to be prosecuted because her lifestyle met the criteria of “very obnoxious.”
About the Author
Laura Jo DeMordaunt has been a lifelong student of the history of New England. With ancestors arriving on the Mayflower, others in 1626 and thereafter, a good portion of her lifetime has been spent researching and writing histories of their struggles and triumphs in the New World, specifically Salem, Massachusetts. Her ancestor, Bridget Bishop, has been a 35-year research project. The vaults of many of New England’s museums, public offices, libraries, and genealogical societies have become her friends.
After encouraging her six sons and one daughter to achieve advanced degrees, Mrs. DeMordaunt eturned to college at the age of 57 and graduated from Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho with a Bachelor of Science degree, emphasis in Education. She loves to serve in her church, tend her flower garden, travel, and spend time on the family cattle ranch she shares with her husband, Roger. She is very proud of her 27 grandchildren. Roger and Laura Jo have just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary.