This week’s Femme Fatale Friday is a special one, as I will be discussing Bridget Bishop. Bridget was the first woman hung in Salem during the witchcraft hysteria of 1692. Today marks the 330th anniversary of Bridget’s untimely death.
Born Bridget Playfer in Norwich, England sometime in the mid or late 1630s, she famously had multiple marriages. This was common in an age when people were often widowed, but it was believed she may have had something to do with the deaths of her husbands. During her second marriage, she gave signs of being an abused wife, as she appeared on the streets with bruises and scratches. This was not all, she was also believed to be an abusive wife during this tumultuous second union! The abuse was likely seen to be a possible cause of her bewitching her first two husbands to death.
Her trial in 1692 was not the first time that she was accused of witchcraft. Bishop’s second husband’s family accused her of bewitching him to death after she received her inheritance from him. This is something that is common amongst women accused of witchcraft. Widows were the only women who were able to own anything at this time, so that was seen as disruptive of the status quo, and something that should be demonized. Accusing a woman of being a witch was an easy way to discredit her, and possibly gain her holdings for oneself!
Bridget Bishop is known by the name of her third husband, Edward Bishop. The time when she married him is a time of confusion in her life story, as Sarah Bishop who was married to Bridget’s stepson was also accused of witchcraft. Therefore the two were sometimes conflated in records.
At the time of the trials, Bridget owned an apple orchard and raised chickens. She was officially arrested on April 18, 1692, after being accused by Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Hubbard, and Anne Putnam Jr. It was at that time that she was examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Jonathan Corwin. Hathorne quickly brought up her prior accusation of witchcraft, and that day she was arraigned on five separate charges of witchcraft! Over the next months, ten different people gave long testimonies on the various acts of bewitchment they saw Bridget Bishop perform. Samuel Gray even accused Bridget of bewitching his child to death 14 years prior, stating that her ghost came back to tell of her demise! Susannah Sheldon, one of the bewitched girls, stated that she saw the specters of Thomas Green’s twin boys who also accused Bridget of bewitching them to death as well. Others accused Bridget of handing out poppets and bewitching their animals.
On June 2, 1692, Bridget and other accused witches were subjected to humiliating physical examinations. This was for the court to search for a “witch’s mark,” which they found on some of the women, including Bridget. When the women were re-examined six hours later, they were absolved of having the marks at all. However, Bridget’s trial still began and ended that same day. She was found guilty, and her death warrant was issued on June 8. On June 10, 1692, which also happened to be a Friday that year, she was hanged at Procter’s Ledge!
So ends the sad tale of Bridget Bishop, the first woman hanged as a witch in Salem Massachusetts during the Witch Trials of 1692. I hope you remember her today, on the 330th anniversary of her untimely demise. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Bridget Bishop. I found the image on https://famous-trials.com/salem/2043-bridget-bishop.