Salem Witch Trials in History and Literature
Although eighteen year-old Mary Walcott was not the most notorious of the accusers, her role in the Salem witch trials was by no means minimal. She was one of the original girls to be afflicted; and it was her aunt, Mary Sibley, who decided to try some white magic to fend off the evil powers in the village. It was Sibley's idea to persuade Tituba and John Indian, slaves of the Rev. Samuel Parris, to make the "witch cake" to discover witches that resulted in Betty Parris and Abigail Williams making their first accusations.
Walcott's mother died when she was young and her father, Joseph Walcott, Captain of the Salem Village militia, married Deliverance Putnam thus making him the brother-in-law of Thomas Putnam, one of the most powerful men in the village. The family alliance made Mary Walcott the niece of Thomas Putnam and cousin of his twelve year-old daughter Ann Putnam, Jr., a household that also included Mercy Lewis, an orphaned servant girl, who, with Ann Putnam, Jr., became one of the most active accusers.
Mary Walcott was not an aggressive accuser. In her book, The Devil in Massachusetts, Marion Starkey describes Walcott as "a girl who could take possession calmly. Mary Walcott was to sit placidly knitting through a Dionysiac frenzy on the part of her companions." During the examination of Sarah Cloyce, Mary Walcott was calm. "She had brought her knitting with her, and became so intent on it that she clicked her needles no matter what devils rioted about her. Every so often she glanced up to confirm someone else's story" (Starkey 82). Walcott was always a passive accuser but she was occasionally afflicted with the more physical manifestations of witchcraft. When Mary Clarke, who had been accused by Mary Post on August 4, was obstinate in giving her confession, what Rosenthal describes as a "flurry of pins" ensued. Mary Warren appeared in court with one stuck one in her throat, and Susannah Sheldon had four in her hand and even the quiet Mary Walcott had one pin in her arm. When former minister of Salem Village, Deodat Lawson, returned to preach in Salem Village, he encountered Walcott at the tavern of Nathaniel Ingersoll. "Lawson by candlelight examined a mysterious set of teeth marks on the arm of one of the troubled girls, seventeen-year-old Mary Walcott."
In Salem Story, Bernard Rosenthal refers to Walcott as "an old standby" and one of the "regulars," a title he reserves for Ann Putnam, Sr., Elizabeth Hubbard, Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Betty Parris, and Ann Putnam, Jr. Although she lacked the melodramatic behavior of her fellow accusers, Walcott is an interesting example in support of Carol Karlsen's theory. In her book The Devil in the Shape of a Woman, Karlsen suggests that many of these girls, being either orphaned or partially orphaned, feared for their social and economic security. Walcott allied herself with the interests of the influential Putnam family in Salem Village. An alliance with such a powerful dynasty ensured economic viability for the uncertain future she faced. Mary Walcott is an example of how teenage anxiety about the future could manifest itself in the form of socially destructive behavior.
Boyer, Paul, and Nissenbaum, Stephen. Salem Possessed, 1974.
Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story, 1993
Starkey, Marion. The Devil in Massachusetts,1949.