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This Wealthy Woman Was Hanged as a Witch for Speaking Her Mind

October 24, 2018 in History

By John Seven

It all started with a fight with carpenters working on her house.


A 19th-century illustration depicting the execution of Anne Hibbins in 1656.

Anne Hibbins was not popular in her Boston community in the mid-1600s. There was her privilege, her demanding standards and her penchant for speaking her mind.

When Hibbins’ husband died in 1654, she became vulnerable—on June 19, 1656, she was hanged for being a witch. It would be some 35 years before rampant accusations of witchcraft consumed the nearby town of Salem, but Hibbins’ conviction would lay bare the vulnerability of women in patriarchal New England of the 1600s. It was later said that Hibbins “was hanged for a witch, only for having more wit than her neighbors.”

“The fact that the widow of one of the Governor’s Assistants, one of the most powerful men in the colony, could be accused, convicted and executed for witchcraft, shows that no one was safe from accusations of witchcraft in early Massachusetts,” says Emerson Baker, a historian at Salem State University and author of A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience. “Indeed, widows were all too vulnerable, as their husbands could not defend them in court.”

Read more: 5 Notable Women Hanged in the Salem Witch Trials

Hibbins came to Boston from Shropshire, England, with her second husband, William, who became a deputy for Boston to the General Court.

If Anne Hibbins makes any dent in the popular imagination it’s probably in book reports and English lit class term papers that mention her as a fictional character in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Throughout Hawthorne’s 1850 novel, Hester Prynne encounters a witch named Mistress Hibbins who at one point invites Hester to come sign “the Black Man’s book” with her own blood. Later, Hibbins reveals she has known Hester’s secrets all along and has kept them to herself, showing disdain for the hypocritical judgment of the Puritans in favor of higher forces.

The real Anne Hibbins was probably less mysterious and more forthright in public, but she certainly would have approved of her fictional counterpart’s view of hypocrisy in Puritanical Massachusetts.


Mistress Hibbins from “The Scarlet Letter.”

It started with a dispute with carpenters.

Hibbins came to Boston from Shropshire, England, with her second husband, William, who became a deputy for Boston to the General Court. Her first transgression against the community was a 1640 dispute …read more

Source: HISTORY

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