Margaret Scott (Stevenson) (1616 - 1692) MP

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Birthplace: England
Death: Died in Salem, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts
Cause of death: Hanged after being convicted of witchcraft.
Occupation: Salem witch trial, executed., hanged as witch
Managed by: John Lucius Davis
Last Updated:

About Margaret Scott (Stevenson)

Salem Witch, hanged.

Margaret Scott was the only person to be accused of being a witch from Rowley during the Salem trials. This was mainly due to the fact that community members long thought of her as a witch. She most likely was suspected of witchcraft because of her low stature in the community, the number of child fatalities,long widowhood, and begging; all common traits among people accused of witchcraft.

Another factor about Margaret Scott's character that made her vulnerable to accusations was her status as a widow for twenty-one years. Being a widow did not in itself expose a woman to suspicion.8 However, Scott suffered from the economic and social effects of being a widow for a prolonged period. The most dangerous aspect of being a widow was the lack of a husband for legal support and influence. Also, Scott, 56 at the time of her husband's death, was forced to live off her husband's small estate for twenty-one years. Often widows who were over fifty and not wealthy, were unable to find a new spouse and thus were reduced to poverty and begging. By begging, Margaret would expose herself to witchcraft suspicions according to what historian Robin Briggs calls the "refusal guilt syndrome". This phenomenon occurred when a beggar's needs were refused causing feelings of guilt and aggression on the refuser's part. The refuser projected this aggression on the begger and grew suspicious of her.

A careful examination of the depositions and witnesses shows a clear pattern among Margaret Scott's accusers. Many who were wealthy residents of the town who cooperated in the effort to convict Margaret of witchcraft.

Margaret Scott was executed at Salem as a result of a suspicious reputation, the combination of spectral and maleficium evidence against her, the close relationship among her accusers, and the timing of her trial. Margaret Scott's downfall resulted from a series of misfortunes that she could not avoid. Impoverished and isolated from her long widowhood, Scott's shady reputation made her an easy target for witchcraft suspicions. Her accusers' depositions describe many typical beliefs about witches in early New England built up over a prolonged period of time. Even the actions taken against her by the prominent families of Rowley were not uncommon in New England witchcraft. Margaret Scott simply could not avoid the key factor in her condemnation; her profile as a "usual suspect". Unlike many of the other accused before the court, Scott was faced with an equal amount of spectral and maleficium evidence. The proponents of the court saw the opportunity to use Margaret Scott to their advantage. Her case showed the court relieving a community of a long believed witch and distracted attention from other defendants who were convicted on much more questionable evidence.

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Margaret Scott's Timeline

Age 19
Hatfield, Hampshire, Massachusetts, USA
December 25, 1640
Age 24
Cambridge, (Present Middlesex County), Massachusetts Bay Colony
July 28, 1642
Age 26
Rowley, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
July 5, 1644
Age 28
January 16, 1651
Age 35
Rowely, Essex Co., Ma, Nabc
November 1, 1656
Age 40
September 4, 1676
Age 60
England, United Kingdom
Age 63
Weedington, Thaxton, England, United Kingdom
September 22, 1692
Age 76
Salem, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts