Fearless Wives and Frightened Shrews
The Construction of the Witch in Early Modern Germany
How witchcraft in Germany first came to be associated with women
In fifteenth-century Germany, women were singled out as witches for the first time in history; this book explores why. Sigrid Brauner examines the connections among three central developments in early modern Germany: a shift in gender roles for women; the rise of a new urban ideal of femininity; and the witch hunts that swept across Europe from 1435 to 1750.
"In medieval discourse on witchcraft, Brauner argues, men and women were assumed to become witches in roughly equal numbers. But starting with the notorious Malleus Maleficarum (1487), witchcraft was reinterpreted as a gender-specific crime: its authors contentiously argued that most witches were women and linked the crime of witchcraft to women's voracious sexual appetites. Protestant authors such as Martin Luther, Paul Rebhun, and Hans Sachs. . . dismissed such lurid claims about women's sexuality. But they continued to see witchcraft as a female crime. . . . Most notably in Rebhun’s and Sach’s work, the witch is associated with disobedience to husbands and inappropriate gender behavior. Thus Brauner’s careful and intelligent readings of these authors suggest . . . that preserving gender hierarchy may indeed have been a priority for German authorities."—Signs
"Brauner’s book speaks expertly and persuasively to a diverse audience . . . interested in modern literary, cultural, and gender studies. . . . [It] is a pleasure to read."—German Quarterly
"Raises interesting questions about the genesis of the modern social problems of race, gender, and class oppression, and locates their roots in the early modern period."—Choice