Whereas Mary Wollstonecraft was a radical Romanticist in her writing as well as in her life, the Nordic female authors found it more difficult to rise above the prejudices of what was suitable for women. In Sweden at least, a patriarchal religiosity sanctioned a widespread oppression of women at all levels. To this must be added the male-chauvinist profile of the Romantic writers.The passive female ideal, propagated by Rousseau and dominant on the continent, was what the female English, French, and German authors tried to escape from by going into exile, both metaphorically and literally. In Scandinavia this way out was seldom used. The great Swedish exception is Fredrika Bremer.
Witch persecutions were institutionalised with the papal bull and the later renowned Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published in 1487 and written by Sprenger and Institoris. From then onwards, secular and ecclesiastical authorities were obliged – whether they wanted to or not – to see it as their legitimate duty to get witchcraft under control. The accused were submitted to interrogations that often resulted in physical mutilation and death. They must confess, at any price. This would last 300 years. The last official witch-burning in Europe took place at the end of the eighteenth century. It is highly unlikely that the persecutions came to an end because it was thought that the ‘offence’, which the papal bull and Malleus Maleficarum had attempted to pin down, had been eradicated. The below treats of confessions in Danish witch trials in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.