Beyond Witchcraft: Discovering Salem Through Women's Stories

Through the efforts of the Events Committee of the Worcester Women’s History Project, we had another successful bus trip this year. On a beautiful June Saturday, we departed from the YWCA and headed for historic Salem, Massachu-setts. To set the mood, we watched “The Crucible” on board, a fine way to prepare us for our day.

WWHP was fortunate enough to be able to engage Bonnie Hurd Smith, who met our bus and directed us to the Sa-lem Visitors Center. Ms. Smith is an expert on Salem history and had also researched for us the link between Salem and Worcester. Her first order of business was to hand us copies of a letter written in 1790 from Judith Sargent Murray to her parents, describing her trip to and through Worcester. “It wears the face of industry, and is proba-bly the Embryo of a great City—Its situation is truly pleasing, and its pre-sent appearance authorizes the most sanguine hopes.”

With her guidance, we visited the Salem Witch Museum, the House of the Seven Gables, and after a lunch at Brother’s Deli, we ended our day at The Peabody Essex Museum. Whether we were walking or riding in the bus, Ms. Smith continuously pointed out houses or areas of interest to women’s history. She was a wonderful docent for the day and all in atten-dance thoroughly enjoyed her expertise.

At The Peabody Essex Museum, we were split into two groups and trav-eled the beautiful facility with docents that had been arranged to receive us. We were given a very diverse tour specific to women’s history, through paintings, works of art, and collections, such as several decades’ worth of footwear. It made for an interesting and thought-provoking end of day. WWHP is most thankful to Bonnie Hurd Smith, The Peabody Essex, and all our Salem guides, for making this trip so informative, fun, and inspirational.

Thanks to our Events Committee for organizing this fantastic day! Members presently are Judy Finkel (Chair), Paulette Bluemel, Dianne Bruce, Kathleen Comer, Carolyn Dik, Vi Massad, Judy Nelson, Hannah Solska.

(Bullet Fact: Like the Women’s Heritage Trail and accompanying book WWHP developed and created, Salem also has a trail and a guidebook!)

Bonnie Hurd Smith is an author of multiple books and has done extensive research on women in the Salem area and beyond. Her work includes some women that have had extraordinary accomplishments, though you probably have never heard of them. We highlight just two:

Judith Sargent Murray 1751-1820

  • First American woman to self-publish a book, “The Gleaner” (1798)
  • First to claim female equality in the public prints
  • Co-founder of a female academy
  • Earliest known American Universalist author
  • Essay “On the Equality of the Sexes” published in 1790

Sarah Parker Remond 1826-94

  • African American and member of Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society
  • Professional lecturer and fundraiser for the American Anti-Slavery Society
  • 1859 Traveled to Great Britain to speak and attend schooling denied her in America
  • Became a med student in Italy and practiced medicine in Florence for twenty years
  • Source:
Published Date: 
September 1, 2009