The young Ann Putnam was the daughter of Thomas Putnam and Ann Putnam, Sir. She is listed in every account as one of the “afflicted girls” and her name appears over 400 times in the court documents. She was twelve years old venue the Salem Witch Trials began in 1692. By the time they were over, she had accused nineteen people, and had Seen eleven of them hanged. Ann suffered her first fits on February 25, 1692, along vivid Betty Hubbard. During her torment, she cried out against Tuba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne.
Because Betty Paris, Abigail Williams, and Ann Putnam, Jar. Ere too young to testify, their accusations had to be endorsed by adults in the village, including her father and other leaders in Salem Village church. Ann.’s court performances have become notorious. She and the other girls would fall to the ground and writhe as if in agony, claiming that the specters of the accused were tormenting them. She would scream that she was being pinched or bitten, choked or that her life was being threatened if she did not sign the Devil’s book.
One of many such instances is recorded in the case of Martha Carrier: when asked, “who hurts oh? ” Ann replies, “Goody Carrier, she bites me, pinches me, & tells me she would cut my throat, it I did not signs her book. ” As often happened in the course of the Salem episode, there little other evidence to convict. Consciously or unconsciously, Ann stuck pins into herself on more than one occasion, claiming that the it was done by the specters of the accused. Common history has painted Ann and her young peers as selfish, vicious fakers who fueled the witchcraft trials out of boredom or spite.
This portrait, however, s somewhat flawed as it appears that, in Ann.’s case at least, the parents of the afflicted must have had a strong influence with the child, as did the other adult accusers. Initially, Ann was fed names by her parents and minister. Her father was an influential church leader and became an aggressive accuser Of witches. Her mother was a fearful woman, still mourning the death of her infant daughter, and, later, she claimed that she herself was attacked by Witches.
Though many of the people Ann accused were those that her family or the Rev. Paris had quarreled With, she had Other sources for her accusations. Mary Beth Norton has recently uncovered a connection between George Burroughs (whom Ann first accused) and Mercy Lewis, a nineteen year-old servant in the Putnam household. North’s groundbreaking research reveals the fact that Burroughs had been minister to the Maine town of Falmouth where both of Mercy’s parents died during Indian attacks.
Moreover, the afflicted girls seem to have entered into something of a conspiracy as time went on, so that in the case of Burroughs he name provided by the older Lewis was quickly echoed by Ann who initiated the accusation. By the time the trials had come to an end, Ann was largely responsible for the deaths to several “witches” including Rebecca Nurse, Mary Easer, and George Burroughs. Her evidence sometimes added details post-hoc, and was crucial to the trials. Years later, in 1706, she stood with head bowed before the village church congregation, and the new minister, the Rear Joseph Green, read aloud her confession.
In this document, which was likely written by Rev. Green, Ann begs forgiveness for her part in the trials, saying that she was “deluded by the Devil” and wishes “to lie in the dust”. Exactly how much guilt Ann was taking on in this apology is questionable, since it is more tailored to mending strife in the village than to allocating blame. In fact, the apology served as the spiritual testimony required to join the Puritan church and Ann was given Communion that same day. It is worth noting that she was the only one of the afflicted girls to make such a retraction. She died in 1715, unmarried.