The 'Wicked Witch' in the Sixteenth Century... and Today
In essence, any woman who (or was thought to be) engaged in behavior that felt threatening or was unconventional in behavior or appearance was at serious risk for problems. Many women could be accused and found guilty and executed on little to no evidence of significant wrong doing. The most common way was to accuse a 'witch' and charge her with heresy. As the definition of heresy was defined by the specific religion but usually enforced not only religious orders and leaders but also enforced by the secular legal power structure. In that light, a heresy charge was a pretty significant and threatening event in someone’s life as well as a charge that didn’t depend on physical proof for convictions- circumstantial evidence, hearsay and confessions under torture were sufficient. Due to women’s influence in their homes and as the transmitter of the culture to their young children, they were in the position to spread unconventional information to their children. As this could potential force changes in the hierarchy and its power, men were encouraged to be actively engaged in keeping the women in their family / household under their control. Single women, whether due to a lack of marriage or from being widowed, were also likely to be accused and condemned for a few reasons. Due to their single status, they had no male protectors and were easier to accuse than married females. In that same sense, they had no men to ‘control’ and keep tabs on them and their behavior and if they were self-sufficient or financially independent, any woman who could be seen as too prominent in society for any reason was in a dangerous situation. Also, by being single and taking assents, these women could and did stand in the way of the orderly transmission of property from one generation of males to another.
pictures from: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/dominicselwood/100252072/the-dark-deep-roots-of-britains-fascination-with-witchcraft/, http://www.damnedct.com/connecticut-witchcraft-trials, http://www.biography.com/people/john-calvin-9235788, http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/shop/the-malleus-maleficarum-in-latin-pdf/, http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/shop/the-malleus-maleficarum-in-latin-pdf/, http://witchnest.blogspot.com/2010/07/killing-witches-as-best-way-to-kill.html, http://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&ved=0CAMQjxw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.academic.ru%2Fdic.nsf%2Fenwiki%2F11823268&ei=cKPjVPK9L-OxsASR94DIDw&psig=AFQjCNGjAAFlzXs6eji2QEbpsIhDxcZ0Pg&ust=1424291020320634, http://en.academic.ru/dic.nsf/enwiki/11823268,