Study Guide

Elizabeth Putnam in A Break With Charity

By Ann Rinaldi

Elizabeth Putnam

Elizabeth is Joseph's wife and generally pretty cool. Most of the time when we see Elizabeth, she's taking up the two key roles for women back in the day: wife and mom. (Head on over to the discussion of women and femininity in the "Themes" section for more tidbits on lady life back in colonial times.) As a wife, Elizabeth supports Joseph and keeps the house running smooth as butter. And her mama side is like a well-oiled machine too—she can bounce her baby on her hip and whip up some needlework with her free hand at the same time.

Elizabeth is even a sister to Susanna and Mary when they come to live with her:

Elizabeth, meanwhile, took the role of older sister, glad to have two females about who were not servants and in whom she could confide her secret joys and fears. (16.8)

Susanna and Mary sure do need an older female role model, and Elizabeth supplies. This lady is just the cat's meow.

But Elizabeth isn't only all that a good wife, mama, and sister in Puritan Salem should be—she's a defender of the innocent to boot. When it comes to fighting for accused witches's rights, we don't get to see Elizabeth as much as Joseph because, since she's a lady, Elizabeth doesn't have as much political influence as her hubby. But she still works in the background to make Salem a better place. And that's seriously impressive.