Bridget Bishop was a brash and independent woman. She spoke freely, even with her male neighbors. She dressed a little flashily for the time and played shuffleboard. She had two taverns and three husbands. And she was the first person executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials.

While Bridget Bishop’s role in history wasn’t as significant as Martha Washington or Abigail Adams, her life had an impact on those who would come after her, for better or for worse. As the first person executed during the Salem trials, Bridget set the precedent for what people could be accused of and executed for. Was the neighbor woman a scold? Witch. Did she dress promiscuously? Witch. Was she independent of men? Witch.

While most of the people of that time would’ve seen Bridget as the prime example of a woman in need of punishment, people today look at Bridget and see a brave, strong, unfortunate woman that should be honored. What happened to her was definitely a tragedy, but I think people visiting her grave and telling her story and honoring her memory is a wonderful step in the healing direction. Truly, her spirit hasn’t died at all.

Over the course of this assignment, I became well acquainted with Bridget. I hope that we can all learn from her life and be true to ourselves and be brave in the face of adversity. Someone will always see our tragedies as stories of hope.

More Classroom Connections

In my last post, I examined some connections between Bridget’s life and circumstances with things we discussed in class. Specifically, how her behavior and how gender differences and inequality led to her trial and execution. This week, I’ll make more connections to our topics and continue to examine Bridget’s circumstances.

I went over how Bridget’s bold personality resulted in animosity among her neighbors, pushing them to accuse her of witchcraft. How her “unladylike” demeanor made her a threat. Not only did the reasons behind the witchcraft accusations reflect the gender inequality of the time, but certain factors regarding the case did as well. Aside from a short testimony, Bridget didn’t really get to defend herself in the final trial. The trial and execution happened in the same day, implying that her life was so unimportant to them that they just wanted to get the whole thing over with and move on to their afternoon tea. Also, the fact that Bridget was accused on another grounds simply for mouthing off to her male neighbors.

Overall, the treatment Bridget experienced reflected the inequality and less than stellar gender relations of the time. Next week, I will wrap up the discussion on Bridget Bishop and her role as a woman in history.

Classroom Connections

Bridget Bishop was targeted as a witch because she was disliked by quite a few members of her social circle. She was disliked because she was not a meek, abiding woman. No, Bridget was targeted because she was independent and unafraid. From what we know of Bridget, she was loud and quite daring.

She was also a little promiscuous, as we saw with her suggestive dress. She wasn’t scared to wear showy clothes, quite unlike other Puritan women. This painted a target on her back because she dressed quite unlike how a proper woman should. Bridget endangered herself by stepping outside the gender roles set for her class.

Her rather “unwomanly” personality also put her at risk. As I mentioned, she was not meek, but loud and independent. She talked openly with men and entertained guests quite late into the night. Since she was not the silent and demure Puritan woman, people had more reason to accuse her of witchcraft.

Because Bridget acted outside of her assigned gender roles, the people in her God-fearing town probably felt threatened by her. While truly terrible and heartbreaking, cases like Bridget’s were not uncommon, and many women were put to death because they did not live up to society’s expectations.

The Trial of Bridget Bishop: An Unhappy Ending

Our last post focused on the testimonies given by several witnesses against Bridget Bishop. Today, we’ll look at the actual trial, short as it was.

On June 2, around 10 a.m., Bridget Bishop, as well as Elizabeth Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, Alice Parker, Susannah Martin and Sarah Good were subjected to a humiliating physical examination. They were examined by a Doctor Barton and nine local women. The examiners reported that they found unnatural growths in weird places on some of the accused, including Bridget. What were probably just moles were found around the genital areas of Bridget, Rebecca Nurse, and Elizabeth Proctor.

However, all of the women were again examined about six hours later, and the examiners said that Bridget and Elizabeth did not have any of the aforementioned marks, just some dry skin that looked like unusual markings.

According to Legal Executions in New England, Bridget’s trial began and ended that same day. She was given no counsel, and was “predoomed by popular opinion and prejudice.” Essentially, Bridget was convicted of witchcraft because she was disliked in her community. Bridget was found guilty by the jury and her death warrant was issued on June 8, 1692.

The following Friday, June 10, between 8 a.m. and noon, Bridget was hanged at the execution site around Gallows Hill. She was buried at her execution site, because as a convicted witch, she was not allowed to be buried on hallowed ground.

Thus ends the sad life of Bridget Bishop. While her life ends here, we have more to cover in the ways of future events and classroom connections in relation to Bridget. Stick around for more!


The Trial of Bridget Bishop: Witnesses Come Forward

When we had last engaged with our Bridget, we had just gotten to the start of her trial. Past accusations of Bridget bewitching her husband were brought up, and once again used against her. The same day of her examination by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin, she was indicted and arraigned on five charges of witchcraft. Over the span of a few months, more than ten witnesses delivered testimonies about how Bridget bewitched them, their family, or their animals.

One witness, John Louder, claimed that Bridget and a neighbor would argue. After this, Louder claimed that Bridget’s spirit attacked him at night, and when he complained to her, she threatened to send black pigs and a talking deformed monkey to torment him. Louder claimed to actually see this monkey, persisting that it was real because it knocked apples from trees.

Another witness, Samuel Gray, claimed that Bridget had bewitched his child to death fourteen years prior.

Several witnesses said that various spirits (Bridget’s and/or deceased’s) came to them and claimed that Bridget had bewitched numerous other people to death.

Other witnesses said that Bridget wanted some lace to be dyed for what they assumed was for a poppet, and then bewitched and physically attacked their eldest child.

Yet more witnesses claimed that Bridget sold them a bewitched pig, and that they found poppets in the walls of her cellar.

Quite a few witnesses came forward, some with believable stories, and some with unbelievable tales. Credible or not, these claims began to wind the noose around Bridget’s neck.

Next week, we’ll examine the trial some more. Things are really getting interesting!


Sarah Bishop and Accusations of Witchcraft

As I mentioned in earlier blog posts, our Bridget Bishop’s history became entangled with that of Sarah Bishop, leading historical accounts to become quite murky and hard to follow.

The confusion begins when Reverend John Hale brings testimony against Sarah Bishop on May 22, where historians may have confused the two women because Reverend Hale only identifies the woman as “Goodwife Bishop” and “wife of Edward Bishop Jun’r”. As both Bishop women were accused of witchcraft and married to an Edward, it’s understandable to see why the mishap occurred.

Some details that are accurate of Bridget Bishop are that she lived in what is now downtown Salem, owned an apple orchard, lived in a house near said orchard, and raised chickens. These bits of information would later be the tools in the arsenals of her accusers.

Arrested on charges of witchcraft on April 18, 1692, Bridget was accused by Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Hubbard, and Ann Putnam, Jr. The next day, she was brought to court in Salem Village where she was examined by Judge John Hathorne and Judge Jonathan Corwin. Bridget’s prior accusation of witchcraft was brought up, and she once again had to answer to bewitching her husband to death in court.

We’ll reconvene next week to examine the details in this case against Bridget Bishop and where it led her.


Detailed Grievances: Stolen Brass and Third Marriage

When we last saw Bridget Bishop, our unfortunate heroine, we examined where her trouble began. Her drama-filled relationship with her second husband, Thomas Oliver, really rocked her already-strained relationship with the townspeople in Salem Town. While this was the main meat in the accusatory sand-WITCH, there were a couple other instances that prompted the villagers to take action against Bridget.

About eight years after Thomas Oliver’s death, in 1867, Bridget Bishop was arrested for stealing brass from a local mill. Her accuser was Thomas Stacy, the mill’s owner. The brass was found on Bridget’s property, but she claimed that she didn’t steal the brass and had no idea how it came to be on her property. Bridget also stated that she sent her daughter with said brass to figure out what it was, not to sell it, which Thomas Stacy had accused her of doing. While it is presumed that there was a trial, there were no surviving records of its outcome.

Bridget Bishop’s third husband was Edward bishop, a well-respected woodcutter. After this point, however, history becomes a bit muddled and her life gets harder to trace. Several historians confused our Bridget Bishop with Sarah Bishop, another woman who was accused of witchcraft and coincidentally married to Bridget Bishop’s step-son, who was also named Edward Bishop.

At this point, Bridget Bishop’s history and story become a little confusing, however, I will do my best to honor her story throughout the blog posts, being as historically accurate as possible. Stay tuned for more of Bridget!


Detailed Grievances: Nuptial Woes

In my previous post, I gave a cursory summary of Bridget Bishop’s character and general reasons behind the town’s dislike of her. In this and future posts, I plan on exploring some of the crimes and grievances that eventually brought her to the gallows. I’ll begin at the beginning, with her marriage issues.

The trouble seemed to begin with Bridget’s second husband, Thomas Oliver. The two did not get along, as there were numerous arguments and reported abuse on both sides. The couple was fined for this behavior, and threatened with a public whipping if the fine was not paid on time. Bridget was even brought to court after using “inappropriate language” towards her husband on a Sunday, and was ordered to suffer public humiliation as punishment.

Recently after this, Thomas Oliver died of an illness. While his children only received about twenty shillings each of inheritance, Bridget received the house, his land, various household goods, and two pigs. Needless to say, Bridget’s stepchildren felt quite cheated, and three months after the death of their father, they accused Bridget of bewitching Thomas to death. However, due to a lack of evidence (and the suspicion that the children were only after Bridget’s inheritance from their father), the case never went to trial.

While more is yet to come, it is quite clear that Bridget had begun to make quite an unfavorable impression on the townspeople. Stay tuned as I continue to follow this twisting history of this poor woman.


A Colorful Character

To begin, we must look at where the accusations of witchcraft against Mrs. Bishop originated. While there are varying accounts of personality, it is generally acknowledged that she was quite a rambunctious woman. There was absolutely no shortage of gossip about Bridget, and it was most likely her personality (and not actual witchcraft) that led to her demise.

Married thrice and widowed twice, Bridget Bishop led a flamboyant lifestyle and dressed quite suggestively for her time; she was the mistress of two taverns and played shuffle board, even though she was a member in good standing at her local church. The Puritans did not approve of her. From public arguments with her husbands, to entertaining guests late into the night, to her easy-going relationships with men, Bridget seemed to spit in the faces of good Puritan people with her every action. Her disregard of decorum, coupled with the fact that she dressed extremely flashily (red–the slut color), made her a prime target for witch accusations. More accusations, in fact, than any other suspect of witchcraft. During her trial, her showy clothes were used against her as evidence for witchiness, as no honest, not-witch would wear such sultry garments.

But was this really Bridget Bishop? History seems to become muddled and confuse her with Sarah Bishop. Was Bridget Bishop really a feisty tavern keeper, or was she an unfortunate widow? Stay tuned to find out!

Bridget Bishop: Saucy Tavern-Keeper, or Devil’s Lady?

As a small introductory post, Bridget Bishop of Salem Town was the first person to be executed for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. She was most likely a suspect of witchcraft because she was outspoken, dressed provocatively, and owned taverns. However, she may have been confused with another possible witch, Sarah Bishop of Salem Village, and been executed in her stead, which is pretty messed up. But so begins my exploration into this fascinating woman, and the mark she made in history.