2. Hannah was a farmer’s wife as well as a mother of eight
Life on the small New England farms of the seventeenth century was harsh, and Hannah would have to have been extraordinarily tough, at least in modern terms. Her hands were calloused and strong; hands which would have been adept at slaughtering chickens, butchering pigs, shucking corn, and hoeing and weeding the gardens and crops. They would have been familiar with the touch of scalding water, the harshness of homemade soap, the coarseness of a scrubbing board. Add to that the fatigue of raising any number of children, maintaining a home, and dealing with the harshness of the New England climate, and it is safe to say that Hannah did not resemble what has been called the delicate flower of womanhood. She was likely as hardboiled as the leather of her stout farmer’s shoes.
She was also no stranger to danger and fear, not of the harshness of the weather or the woods, but of the natives which occupied the latter. By the end of the seventeenth century the settlers in Massachusetts’ outlying towns had endured several wars with the natives. In 1697 King William’s War was still raging, a conflict which remains notable for the cruelty practiced by both sides, the heathen Abenaki and their Papist French allies on the one side, and the Christian English on the other. Raids of villages by the Indians were marked with the slaughter of the men, and all too frequently the children, with the women strong enough to march carried off as hostages for ransom. The English preferred taking scalps to hostages, as they were easier to carry home, and received a payment for them from representatives of the British King.