Naughty Women and Worse

  • Jerome Friedman


At one time it was fashionable to speak of a new, more romantic seventeenth-century attitude toward women.1 Another fiction explained that the outbreak of witchcraft in the seventeenth century was a particularly Catholic phenomena since Protestant emphasis upon predestination and denial of all ritual precluded the essence of magic.2 Both arguments, while interesting in some theoretical sense, are wrong. Witchcraft trials occurred in Catholic France, in Protestant Germany, during the height of the Puritan revolution, and in Salem, Massachusetts, where there was hardly a hint of Catholicism.


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  1. 1.
    The most comprehensive single-volume study of women in the seventeenth century is Antonia Fraser, The Weaker Vessel (New York: Vintage Books, 1985). Other important works include the following, with yet other titles in notes below: Mary Prior, ed., Women and Wives in English Society 1500–1800 (London: Methuen, 1985); Simon Shepherd, ed., The Women’s Sharp Revenge: Five Women’s Pamphlets from the Renaissance (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985); Susan D. Amussen, An Orderly Society: Gender and Class in Early Modern England (New York: B. Blackwell, 1988); G. R. Quaife, Wanton Wenches and Wayward Wives (London: Croom Helm, 1979); Carroll Camden, The Elizabethan Women (Houston: Elsevier Press, 1952); Mary W. Chapman and A. Beatrice W. Chapman, The Status of Women under the English Law (London: Routledge, 1909); Alice Clark, ed., Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century (New York: Dutton, 1919; reissued London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982); Jean Donnison, Midwives to Medical Men: A History of Inter-Prefessional Rivalries and Women’s Rights (New York: Schocken Press, 1977); G. E. and K. R. Fussell, The English Countrywoman: A Farmhouse Social History (London: A. Melrose, 1953); Dorothy Gardiner, English Girlhood at School: A Study of Women’s Education through Twelve Centuries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1929); Margaret George, “From Goodwife to Mistress: The Transformation of the Female in Bourgeois Culture,” Science and Society 37 (1973); Wallace Notestein, “The English Women, 1580–1650,” in J. H. Plumb, ed., Studies in Social History (London: Longman, 1955); Myra Reynolds, The Learned Lady in England 1650–1760 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1920); D. M. Stenton, The English Woman in History (London: Macmillan, 1957); Roger Thompson, Women in Stuart England and America (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1974). For the romantic view of Puritan love, see Keith Thomas, “The Puritans and Adultery: The Act of 1650 Reconsidered,” in Donald Pennington and Keith Thomas, eds., Puritans and Revolutionaries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 259; J. T. Johnson, A Society Ordained by God: English Puritan Marriage Doctrine in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century (Nashville, NY: Abingdon Press, 1970); W. and M. Haller, “The Puritan Art of Loving,” Huntington Library Quarterly 5 (1941–42); R. M. Frye, “The Teachings of Classical Puritanism on Conjugal Love,” Studies in the Renaissance 2 (1955).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    The literature concerning witchcraft is very large. The general reader might start with Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1971), and the following accounts are very useful in providing a fundamental appreciation of the modern historiography of the subject: Brian P. Levack, The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe (London: Longman, 1987); Joseph Klaits, The Servants of Satan: The Age of the Witch Hunts (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985); Christina Larner, Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief (New York: B. Blackwell, 1985); Christina Larner, Enemies of God: The Witch-hunt in Scotland (London: Chatto & Windus, 1981). For a broader perspective, the reader might consult: J. Caro-Baroja, The World of the Witches (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964); R. Kieckhefer, European Witch-trials: Their Foundations in Popular and Learned Culture, 1300–1500 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976); A. Macfarlane, Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970); Macfarlane, Witchcraft and Religion: The Politics of Popular Belief (Oxford: B. Blackwell, 1984); H. C. E. Middelfort, Witch Hunting in Southwest Germany, 1562–1684 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972); E. W. Monter, Witchcraft in France and Switzerland (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1976); Monter, ed., European Witchcraft (New York: John Wiley, 1969); Jeffrey Burton Russell, Witchcraft in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972); H. R. Trevor-Roper, The European Witch-Craze (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969); Norman Cohn, Europe’s Inner Demons (New York: Basic Books, 1975).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Concerning herbal poisions, see L. H. Pammel, A Manual of Poisonous Plants (Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch Press, 1957); and J. M. Arena and James W. Hardin, Human Poisoning from Native and Cultivated Plants (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1974).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Several contemporary pamphlets about murders have been collected by Joseph H. Marshburn and Alan R. Velie in Blood and Knavery (Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1973); and Joseph H. Marshburn, Murder and Witchcraft in England, 1550–1640 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971). For secondary sources dealing with murder, please consult the following: J. A. Sharp, “Domestic Homicide in Early Modern England,” The Historical Journal 24 (1981): 29–48; James B. Given, Society and Homicide in 13th Century England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977); Leanore Lublein, “The Context of Murder in English Domestic Plays, 1590–1610,” Studies in English Literature 23 (Spring 1983): 181–96; Clare Gittings, Death, Burial and the Individual in Early Modern England (London: Croom Helm, 1984). Murder is also treated in more general studies of crime, such as the following: J. S. Cockburn, ed., Crime in England, 1550–1800 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977); J. A. Sharp, Crime in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); Sharp, Crime in Early Modern England 1500–1750 (London: Longman, 1984); Michael Weisser, Crime and Punishment in Early Modern Europe (Atlantic Heights, NJ: Humanities Press, 1979).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The important role played by women in revolutionary-period sects has not received the amount of scholarship it deserves. Still, there are some very good works that provide a staring point. Mabel R. Brailsford, Quaker Women 1640–1690 (London: Duckworth, 1915); Isabel Ross, Margaret Fell: Mother of Quakerism (London: Longman, 1949); M. P. Higgins, “Women in the English Civil War,” M.A. thesis, University of Manchester, 1965; Keith Thomas, “Women and the Civil War Sects,” Past and Present 13, 1958; David Weigall, “Women Militants in the English Civil War,” History Today (June 1972); E. M. Williams, “Women Preachers in the English Civil War,” Journal of Modern History 1 (1929).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Concerning pornography, see Roger Thompson, Unfit for Modest Ears: A Study of Pornographic, Obscene, and Bawdy Works Written and Published in England in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century (Totowa, NJ: Rowan and Littlefield, 1979); H. C. Allen and R. Thompson, eds., Contrast and Connection (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1976), chapter 2; David Foxon, Libertine Literature in England, 1660–1745 (New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1965); A. V. Judges, ed., The Elizabethan Underworld: A Collection of Tudor and Early Stuart Tracts and Ballads (London: E. P. Dutton, 1930; reissued, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965); G. Saigado, ed., Cony-Catchers and Bawdy Baskets: An Anthology of Elizabethan Lowlife (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972); G. Legman, The Horn Book: Studies in Erotic Folklore and Bibliography (New York: University Books, 1964); E. J. Burford, Bawdy Verse: A Pleasant Collection (New York: Penguin, 1982).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Concerning prostitution, see: E. J. Burford, Bawds and Lodgings: A History of the London Bankside Brothels from 100–1675 (London: Owen, 1976); E. J. Burford, The Orrible Synne: A Look at London Lechery from Roman to Cromwellian Times (London: Calder & Boyars, 1973); Lydia L. Otis, Prostitution in Medieval Society: The History of an Urban Institution in Languedoc (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985); Paul Hair, ed., Before the Bawdy Court: Selections for Church Court and Other Records Relating to the Correction of Moral Offences in England, Scotland, and New England, 1300–1800 (London: B. Elek, 1972); Carol Weiner, “Sex Roles and Crime in Late Elizabethan Herfordshire,” Journal of Social History 8 (Summer 1975): 38–60. A wealth of information about prostitution and illicit sex can be gleaned from the following: James T. Henke, Gutter Life and Language in the Early Street Literature of England: A Glossary of Terms and Topics Chiefly of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (West Cornwall, CT: Locust Hill Press, 1988); Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Uncoventional English, 8th ed., ed. Paul Beal (New York: Macmillan, 1984); Partridge, A Dictionary of the Underworld (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964); Phillip Pinkus, Grub Street Stripp’d Bare (London: Constable, 1968).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Luke Own Pike, A History of Crime in England, 2nd ser. (London: Smith Elder, 1873–76), p. 183; Peter Clark “The Alehouse and the Alternative Society,” in Donald Pennington and Keith Thomas, eds., Puritans and Revolutionaries (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978), p. 60, notes the additional consideration that bastards posed a problem for inheritance.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Sex in Venice was more interesting. See Guido Ruggiero, Boundaries of Eros: Sex Crime and Sexuality on Renaissance Venice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    On this subject, see: C. Bingham, “Seventeenth Century Attitudes Towards Deviant Sexuality,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 1 (1970): 447–69; D. O. Frantz, “Lewd Priapians and Renaissance Pornography,” Studies in English Literature 12 (1972): 157–72; John G. Bourke, Scatological Rites of All Nations (1891; reissued New York: Johnson Reprint, 1968).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 12.
    See the very interesting volume by Stanislaw Andreski, Syphilis, Puritanism, and Witchhunts (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990). Also, L. Clarkson, Death, Disease and Famine (London: Gill & MacMillan, 1975), pp. 1–40. The subject remained of interest in this period. See, for instance, J. Joynel’s Treatise of the French Disease (1670); Bismoorth’s New Discovery of the French Disease (1682); Gideon Harvey, Little Venus Unmasked (1670).Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Samuel Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 9 vols., ed. Robert Latham and William Matthews (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970–1983), vol. 2, p. 170.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    L. Stone, The Crisis of the Aristocracy, 1558–1641 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), p. 620.Google Scholar

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© Jerome Friedman 1993

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  • Jerome Friedman

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