Why Was It Mainly Women Prosecuted During the Witch Trials

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What images does the word "witch" create in a person’s mind? Most people would tend to think of an old woman wearing a black, cone-shaped hat, with a large mole on her face, and perhaps flying on her broom. The European witch trials began when both men and women were accused of consorting with the devil. Due to the accusations of consorting with the devil many women were tortured for days and even weeks for information. The most documented witch trials occurred in Europe and the United States. Throughout history millions of people have been accused, arrested, tortured, put to trial, and persecuted as witches. However, why were a majority of the accused and prosecuted women?

The trials occurred during a time when women were considered a second class in the world. “About four out of five witch suspects were females, a preponderance that suggests the intensity of misogynistic feeling in early modern times.” (Klaits, p. 5) There was much hatred towards women during this time. They had no face or name, and had no rights during this era. They were a servant to their husband. The woman was a cook, cleaner, child bearer and took care of the home. The husband told a women what she could and couldn't do, and she was no one without him. Furthermore, “These numbers understate the predominance of women, because many of the accused men were implicated solely due to their connection with female suspects.” (Klaits, p.52) The men accused were mainly persecuted due to having been husbands or lovers of the women accused. Also due to women being sub-servant to the men, they would have known if the woman was a witch or not. “The evident reality of curses, combined with the misfortunes so common in pre-industrial society, made it easy for a quarrelsome woman's neighbours to decide that she was, or might be, a witch.” (Goodare p.297) Neighbors that didn't like another woman could easily accuse their neighbor of being a witch during this time. Women who were committing adultery with...
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