Early American Witches: Midwives and Witches
By Cathy Hartt, RN, CNM, MS
European: "It is the year 1585 in the German town of Dillingham and Anna Hausman
is a midwife who cared for countless mothers and newborn children. She is now
accused of killing them. Her crime is witchcraft. She will be burned at the stake for
it. Under systematic torture, she has confessed to whatever her interrogaters
wanted to hear. Her judges believe a tide of Satanism is sweeping Germany. The
Devil has been her lover, she tells them, the babies sacrificed to him. Knowing it
would mean her death, she says anything to stop the pain."
"There has been such a connection between witchcraft and the processes of life.
Women are very connected to the processes of life. Women are the ones who birth
the children. The whole question of how that happens throughout history is a great
mystery. There is fear connected with women's blood, women's bleeding and
women's birthing. The whole profession of midwifery, which ended up being brutally
suppressed by the church and also by the medical establishment later, I think has a
lot to do with women having some control over this awesome power. Midwives like
Anna Hauseman were easy targets, accused of sacrificing babies to the devil. But
all female healers pose a threat to the male medical profession, which is struggling
to establish itself. They could not qualify as doctors, because women were barred
from the universities and medical schools so they had to be unqualified. They had
no choice. If they worked as an unqualified healer, or practitioner, or herbalist, they
were considered a witch."
The two quotes (above) come from Time Life's World of the Supernatural: The
New England History: "In 1629, King Charles the First of England granted a religious
splinter group, called the Puritians, a charter to settle and govern an English colony
in the MA Bay. The purpose was to create a new, perfect society based on the
principles of the Bible, a theocracy, with no seperation of church and state. The
goal was a kind of model community, what they called a city on the hill, that would be
a kind of light to people all over the world . . . The Puritians remained British citizens
and like their countrymen, they were also a community that very much believed
witches existed . . . This was central to their beliefs."
"The first witch trial in MA was not is Salem. It was in Charlestown in 1648. A midwife
and healer named Margaret Jones was accused of witchcraft. Villagers believed
she had a malignant touch that could cause deafness and nausea. Jones was
suppose to be able to foretell the future and even had a witch's teat. She was
hanged in 1648."
The two quotes (directly above) come from The History Channel (video): The Salem
Midwives & Witches - What is the
Pearl Lake State Park