Hawkins, Jane (17th century)

Hawkins, Jane (17th century) Massachusetts midwife
and healer expelled on suspicions of witchcraft in the
delivery of a deformed, stillborn fetus. The witchcraft
accusations were mixed with a religious controversy
affecting Jane Hawkins as well.
Hawkins, married to Richard Hawkins, was well
known for her midwifery skills and medical remedies.
She also was associated with the Antinomians, a Quaker
religious faction that became engaged in political controversy
with the dominant Puritans. The Antinomians were
led by a woman, Anne Hutchinson.
Hawkins served as midwife to a woman named Mary
Dyer, a fellow Antinomian who gave birth in October
1637 to a deformed fetus called a “monster.” Authorities
declared that it was a sign of God’s displeasure with the
Animosity arose against Hawkins, Dyer and Hutchinson.
It was said that Hawkins “had familiarity with the
Devil” when she had lived in St. Ives, Cornwall, England,
and would give young women oil of mandrake to make
them conceive. In March 1638, she was ordered “not to
meddle in surgery, or physic, drinks, plasters, or oils, not
to question matters of religion, except with the elders for
satisfaction,” according to official records. In June 1638,
Hawkins was ordered expelled from Massachusetts Colony
Magical hare woman, found abandoned beneath a Gypsy caravan
in England; in the collection of the Museum of Witchcraft
in Boscastle, Cornwall (Photo by author; courtesy
Museum of Witchcraft)
Hawkins, Jane 155
or be severely whipped and punished by the court. Her two
sons took her away to live in Rhode Island. She returned in
1641 and was banished a second time.
Hutchinson also was banished in 1638. Dyer left, but
returned in 1659. She was executed a year later for her
Quaker faith.
The association of witchcraft with an unpopular religious
practice followed European practices pursued by
the Inquisition against heretics and others. The Hawkins
case was among the early witchcraft episodes in colonial
New England. Had it occurred later, when increasing
anti-witch hysteria developed, Hawkins most likely
would have been brought to trial and perhaps executed.
By the 1650s, Quaker woman missionaries were increasingly
linked to witchcraft. Two missionaries, Mary Fisher
and Ann Austin, were stripped of their clothing by authorities
and searched for witch’s marks.