A true gem of a read. The Wonderful Discovery of Elizabeth Sawyer reminds us of the terrible fate that women have suffered at the hands of the church since the beginning of time. Seen as unclean, the bringers of sin, held in the clutch of satan-they are easy scapegoats for all of the ills of the world. The church (both catholic and Protestant) regularly subjected women to horrible punishments. Speaking out against injustice could brand you a witch. Be raped and be branded a whore. Become pregnant out of wedlock, you’re ruined. Be on the wrong side of the ruling church power of the day and you may find yourself burned alive. Wash your clothes wrong, anger a neighbor, have land someone in power wanted, lose a child to miscarriage, be present when someone dies-these are all things that have gotten women killed and accused of witchcraft.
This novel follows the ordinary of Newgate prison. He is to receive confessions from two prisoners, the main being Elizabeth Sawyer. He goes into this task with a methodical approach and believes her to be guilty and on her way to hell. Towards the end of the book he is forced to see the truth of those who control the church as well as the church for what it truly is.
What I took most from this book is that while we’ve made progress, we are only one pendulum swing from going backwards.
This book is based on a pamphlet by Henry Goodcole and was also turned into a play called The Witch of Edmonton by Rowley, Dekker, and Ford.
A story that is far too true in the history of women. Don’t skip this book.