A look back at the victims of the Salem Witch Trials and the mass hysteria that led to their deaths.
On September 22, 1692, eight people were hanged for their alleged crimes as witches. They were among 20 who were killed as a result of the hysteria that took place in the New England village of Salem where fear of demonic possession struck panic among the Puritans and led to more than 200 accusations against anyone suspected of witchcraft.
Protection against Satan and his witch-y minions was a hot commodity in early modern Europe.
By Gwynn Guilford
ReporterPublished January 24, 2018Last updated on July 24, 2018
In 1572, the killings began. That year, authorities in the tiny settlement of St Maximin, in present-day Germany, charged a woman named Eva with using witchcraft to murder a child. Eva confessed under torture; she, along with two women she implicated, were burned at the stake.
The pace of prosecution picked up from there. By the mid-1590s, the territory had burned 500 people as witches—an astonishing feat, for a place that only had 2,200 residents to begin with.
Why is it that early modern Europe had such a fervor for witch hunting? Between 1400 to 1782, when Switzerland tried and executed Europe’s last supposed witch, between 40,000 and 60,000 people were put to death for witchcraft, according to historical consensus. The epicenter of the witch hunts was Europe’s German-speaking heartland, an area that makes up Germany, Switzerland, and northeastern France.
The Malleus Maleficarum, a Latin book written in 1486 and 1487, is also known as “The Hammer of Witches.” This is a translation of the title. Authorship of the book is credited to two German Dominican monks, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger. The two were also theology professors. Sprenger’s role in writing the book is now thought by some scholars to have been largely symbolic rather than active.
After decades of campaigning by the suffragettes, a 1918 Act gave a limited cohort of women the right to vote in parliamentary elections
Image courtesy of the National Print Museum
A few years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Eric Hobsbawm, the late eminent left-wing historian, and took the opportunity to ask him what he believed was the most significant revolution of the 20th century. Without hesitation he answered: “Undoubtedly, the women’s revolution.”
The region of Prussia in Central Europe is a unique place due to the large number of cultures which have resided and met there. These lands were also a hotbed for witchcraft and a cruel fate for those who dared to dabble in the practice.
A Mixture of Faiths
Witchcraft may have existed in this area since the settling of Eastern and Western Prussia. Before the baptisms of these regions, the territory of historical Prussia was pagan. The faith of the inhabitants was mixed and dependent on the tribe they were related to, but it was generally a combination of Baltic religions with inflated mythologies.
The Catholic Church in India is only beginning to deal with the kinds of sexual abuse scandals that have rocked the institution elsewhere. A bishop in the state of Kerala has been charged with raping a nun, and other women have come forward with similar complaints.
As Europe’s leading human rights organisation, the Council of Europe has undertaken a series of initiatives to promote the protection of women against violence since the 1990s. In particular, these initiatives have resulted in the adoption, in 2002, of the Council of Europe Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence, and the running of a Europe-wide campaign, from 2006-2008, to combat violence against women, including domestic violence. The Parliamentary Assembly has also taken a firm political stance against all forms of violence against women. It has adopted a number of resolutions and recommendations calling for legally-binding standards on preventing, protecting against and prosecuting the most severe and widespread forms of gender-based violence.
From the United Nations come horrifying statistics: Victims of female genital mutilation – a ritual to remove a young girl’s clitoris to ensure her fidelity – number 130 million. Some 60 million girls become “child brides,” forced to marry, sometimes after being kidnapped and raped. Six hundred million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime. Every year as many as 5,000 women perish in ‘honor killings’ or punitive murder. Girls as young as 12 years old may be beaten, strangled, stoned or buried alive, for choosing what to wear or whom to marry, fleeing an abusive husband, even because their marriage dowries are considered insufficient.
Women’s rights are the fundamental human rights that were enshrined by the United Nations for every human being on the planet nearly 70 years ago. These rights include the right to live free from violence, slavery, and discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and equal wage.
As the now-famous saying goes, “women’s rights are human rights.” That is to say, women are entitled to all of these rights. Yet almost everywhere around the world, women and girls are still denied them, often simply because of their gender.
Winning rights for women is about more than giving opportunities to any individual woman or girl; it is also about changing how countries and communities work. It involves changing laws and policies, winning hearts and minds, and investing in strong women’s organizations and movements.
Am Anfang der Frauenbewegung von 1968 standen drei Tomaten: Als einzige Frau durfte die Berlinerin Helke Sander auf der Delegiertenkonferenz des Sozialistischen Deutschen Studentenbundes eine Rede halten. Die Genossen reagierten mit Ignoranz – und plötzlich trafen Tomaten den Cheftheoretiker Hans-Jürgen Krahl.0
Als die Berlinerin Helke Sander durfte als einzige Frau auf der Delegiertenkonferenz des Sozialistischen Deutschen Studentenbundes (SDS) am 13. September 1968 in Frankfurt am Main ihre Rede hielt, war das Thema die “Gleichberechtigung der Geschlechter”. Erbost über die Ignoranz und Arroganz, mit der die SDS-Genossen auf Sanders Rede reagierten, warf die Studentin Sigrid Rüger drei Tomaten und traf auf dem Podium Cheftheoretiker Hans-Jürgen Krahl.