Date of Award

Winter 2021

Degree Type

Open Access Master's Thesis

Degree Name

History, MA

Program

School of Arts and Humanities

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Janet Farrell Brodie

Dissertation or Thesis Committee Member

Matthew Bowman

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© Copyright Rachel Murrell, 2021

Abstract

Though this infamous period in American history has been examined numerous times, this paper aims to analyze the role in which “soft culture,” in particular dress and clothing, played in the search for witches amongst Salem women in 1692. Of necessity to this analysis is a thorough examination of early American material culture and the role in which early New Englanders interacted with newfound notions of materiality. This analysis examines two distinct points of contention at the crux of this cultural turn: the maintenance of and visual adherence to rigid social class standards through clothing and the visual interpretation of material wealth in accordance with Puritan theological standards contemporary to the period. Through this study of clothing and its relationship to those accused of witchcraft throughout the duration of the Salem witch trials, this analysis hopes to provide a fuller understanding of the implications of appearance in accusations of witchcraft and the importance of clothing and the body in Salem society and theological belief. As this study will demonstrate, the history of Salem’s—and of early New England’s—interaction with notions of materiality in their developing social and economic worlds further underscores the importance that the role of clothing played in “signposting” what the community of Salem believed was evidence of weaknesses in their established social and economic order, and therefore, summarily devolved into evidence of witchcraft. This paper will also focus on the added element of Puritan theology surrounding the female body and its role in the determination of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. Through examining a familiar historic event through the lens of material culture, this paper aims to present evidence for the social perpetration and persecution of witchcraft through clothing and the body.

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