Graduate Theses & Dissertations

Witches and Bawds as Elderly Women in England, 1680-1730
Many print sources from 1680 to 1730 depicted bawds and witches as figures of transgressive elderly femininity. They were often described as having roughly the same anti-social behaviour, age, and gender. Both witches and bawds were seen as seducing innocents into a life of sin, associating with the devil, and acting lustful and unmotherly. Furthermore, they were connected with Catholicism and were thought to unite sinners against English Protestant society. The physical descriptions of the witch and procuress also bore significant patterns in presenting deformity, disfigurement, smelliness, rottenness, and death, traits generally connected with elderly women. Though historians have recognized the tendency of the witch or bawd to be characterized as an old woman, none have conducted a systematic comparison of the two stereotypes. Such an analysis can offer insight about the social anxieties around aging femininity in this period. Author Keywords: bawd, cheap print, elderly women, old age, witch, witchcraft

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