The mention of Salem is significant as this is where the Witch Trials took place in 1692, a shameful episode in American history where the religious extremism of the Puritans (like those running the Republic of Gilead) overrode rationality and the need for evidence.
Massachusetts was not a theocracy, but the Puritans were powerful in the community. They considered women to be lustful by nature, hence closer to the devil. Unsurprisingly, more women than men were arrested on suspicion of witchcraft. The majority were unmarried or widowed, and childless. Without heirs, when they were executed their property would revert to the colony. Witch-hunts, therefore, had a pecuniary motive.