On This Day - 3rd September 1615: Mary Bradbury born

Four hundred years ago Mary Perkins (later Bradbury) was born in Warwickshire, England. A normal country girl who’s life was to become extraordinary many times over. She was just sixteen when her parents decided to emigrate to America. Sailing from Bristol she would have left behind friends, relatives, her homeland and her girlhood. Sweet sixteen and sailing to the new world. Was she frightened or exhilarated? Based on later events I would hazard a guess that she was rather excited for five years after their emigration Mary was married to a Thomas Bradbury, one of the most well thought of citizens in their adopted homeland. A high spirited girl from England full of the freshness of her new life seems far more likely to catch his attention than a homesick youth. 


17th Century engraving of ships similar to those that Mary would have travelled on
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

It seems a happy and fruitful marriage for she bore her husband eleven children over the next twenty years, most surviving to adulthood. Not much is know about this period of her life save the names of her children but before her life was to come to a close a rather dramatic series of incidents interrupted. They were, of course, the Salam Witch Trials. 


A Salem Witch Trial
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Bradbury was indicted for crimes of witchcraft and was accused of placing ships under spells, of transforming herself into a blue boar and of practicing magic against one Timothy Swan. Although many accused witches found former friends and loved ones turning against them, fearful perhaps of the tidal wave of malice riding through the town, Mary’s friends remained true. Her husband and over a hundred of their friends and neighbours testified for her and begged the courts to reconsider but she was convicted and sentenced to execution. And here, her life takes yet another extraordinary turn for she did not hang. For unknown reasons Mary was spared. Perhaps the magnitude of support won through, perhaps her well respected husband bribed the jailers and sped her away into the night, perhaps they simply forgot her in the midst of the mass executions. But Mary was spared and after a time away returned with her husband to their home in Massachusetts where she died in 1700, peacefully in bed at the age of 85. 

800px-Salem Village - map of - Project Gutenberg eText 17845

Map of Salem Village in 1692
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

She did not live long enough to see the compensation come to her descendants in 1711 but she did live. The horrors of human mania and cruelty that ripped apart so many homes tarnished hers but did not destroy it. Today we like to think that we would not descend to such levels of mass hysteria that would end in the obscene legal murders of our neighbours and friends. That we would not treat those who’s lives are so similar to ours as objects to be feared and repelled. That we are more pure minded and sophisticated as those uneducated ancestors who threw their friends to the gallows to save their own necks. But as Arthur Miller showed us in the 1950s only time will tell. 

© Isla Robertson 2017