Possessed by Silence

Cotton Mather, Mercy Short, and the Origin of America's Mean Girls

in Girlhood Studies
Author: LuElla D'Amico
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In 1692, the Salem witch trials introduced perhaps the most famous early American girls-girls notoriously lambasted for instigating the death of twenty people. During that same year, Cotton Mather published Ornaments for the Daughters of Zion (hereafter referred to as Ornaments) and A Brand Pluck'd Out of the Burning (hereafter referred to as Brand). Ornaments served as a moral guidebook for Puritan girls to follow, while Brand details the possession of Mercy Short, an adolescent not directly involved with the witch trials but whose story represents the most thorough recorded account of possession that we have. These two works document the pressure exerted on colonial girls to remain silent, and help to reveal how possession gave them an outlet for the expression of their feelings. In examining them, it becomes possible to ascertain how the Puritan roots of girls' coerced silence and repressed aggression have endured into contemporary America.

Girlhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal

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