Childhood in the 17th Century
In 1692, children were expected to behave under the same strict code as their parents, in fact the notion of what we know as ‘childhood' did not become popular until the late 1800s. Children in the colonies did chores, attended church and repressed individual differences, just as their parents (www.discoveryschool.com). Emotional outbursts of any kind were severely punished and there was no such thing as excitement, joy or anger. Children rarely played, as toys and games did not yet exist. Puritans saw these activities as sinful distractions. Some children learned to read, but the only book in most households was the Bible (www.discoveryschool.com).
Young boys had a few outlets for their imagination. They worked as apprentices outside the home, practicing such skills as carpentry or crafts. However, they were encouraged to explore the outdoors through hunting and fishing. Young girls were expected to clean the house and help their mothers cook, wash, clean, and sew and nothing more. Young women found in the woods alone could easily arouse the suspicions of fearful townsfolk (www.thehistoryplace.com).
Such was the world of Abigail Williams and Betty Parris during the long, dark winter of 1692. There was little to feed their imagination that did not warn of sin and eternal punishment. It is no wonder that the young girls were so captivated by Tituba's magical stories and fortune-telling games. These activities were strictly forbidden, which must have filled them with fear and guilt. This may have been one reason for their hysterical behaviour. And at a time when young girls were forbidden to act out or express themselves, it is easy to see why they were so enraptured by the attention they received when they became ‘bewitched'.