This Day in the Law
June 2

First Woman Put on Trial in Salem Witch Trials (1692)

On June 2, 1692, Bridget Bishop was accused of being a witch and put on trial. She was the first person put on trial in the year-long hearings known as the Salem witch trials.

The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before local magistrates to prosecute people accused of witchcraft. They took place in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. Though they are known as the Salem witch trials, the hearings were actually conducted in several towns across in the area, including Salem Village, Ipswich, Andover, and Salem Town.

There were two charges that could be brought against people accused of practicing witchcraft - afflicting with witchcraft, or making an unlawful covenant with the Devil.

The most well-known and prolific court at this time was the Court of Oyer and Terminer in Salem Town. In this court alone, over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused but not formally pursued by the authorities. At least five of the accused died in prison, and all twenty-six who went to trial before this court were convicted. It was in this court that Bridget Bishop was the first accused witch brought to trial on June 2, 1692.

Bishop was charged with bewitching five young women. She was also accused of bewitching a child, making poppets (a type of voodoo doll), bewitching a pig after a dispute with the pig’s owner, and appearing in spectral form in people’s homes. During the very short trial, Bishop was uncooperative and gave several conflicting statements. She was found guilty and sentenced to death. Bridget Bishop was executed by hanging only a few days later, on June 10.

The last witch trail was held in May 1693. In total, 19 people were executed during the course of the Salem witch trials, and several more died in prison. Today, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial Park in Salem, Massachusetts exists as a memorial to all who were executed.