Drawing of Martha Corey and her persecutors.
|Died||September 22, 1692 (aged 72)
Salem Village, Massachusetts Bay Colony
Cause of death
|Execution by hanging|
|Residence||Salem Village, Massachusetts Bay Colony|
|Known for||Convicted of witchcraft in the Salem witch trials|
|Spouse(s)||Henry Rich (1677–?)
Giles Corey (1690–1692)
The community was surprised to see Corey accused, as she was known for her piety and dedicated church attendance. However, she had never shown support for the witch trials, since she did not believe witches existed. She was outspoken about her belief that the accusers were lying, and upon hearing this, several young girls promptly accused her of witchcraft. She was not aware of the level of paranoia in the village, and when she went to trial she was simply truthful about her innocence and never doubted that she would be exonerated.
As the girls testified against her during examination, Corey asked the judge not to believe the rantings of hysterical children. The girls began mimicking her movements as if they were being controlled by her, which was evidence enough to persuade the jury of her guilt. She was hanged on September 22, 1692. She was 72.
Her husband, Giles Corey, had defended her against the allegations, and in due time he was accused of witchcraft himself. He refused to undergo a trial and was executed by pressing, a slow crushing death under a pile of stones. When the sheriff asked how he would plead, he responded only by asking for more weight. He died on September 19, 1692, three days before his wife Martha was hanged.
In popular culture
Corey and her husband are both characters in the Arthur Miller play The Crucible (although Martha is only heard off-stage). In the 1957 and 1996 film adaptations of Miller's play, she was depicted (on-screen) by Jeanne Fusier-Gir and Mary Pat Gleason, respectively.
- Enders A. Robinson. The Devil Discovered: Salem Witchcraft 1692. Waveland Press, Prospect Heights, IL, 2001 (1991), p. 271
- Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 2 vv., v. 1 p. 190, v. 2 pp. 38–42, 43–55, 111, 324, 458, 507.
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