History

Mass. Senate clears final victim’s name from Salem Witch Trials

Elizabeth Johnson Jr.'s name has finally been cleared.

Salem Witch Trials File Photo

Nearly 330 years after the infamous Salem Witch Trials, the Massachusetts Senate has voted to clear the name of the final victim yet to be exonerated.

State House News Service (SHNS) reported Thursday that while debating the $50 billion budget, the Senate adopted an amendment from Methuen Sen. Diana DiZoglio that added Elizabeth Johnson Jr. to the resolution officially clearing the names of those wrongfully accused of witchcraft during the trials.

“While we’ve come a long way since the horrors of the Witch Trials, women today still all too often find their rights challenged and concerns dismissed,” DiZoglio told the news service.

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“There continue to be great injustices, with attacks on women and on the rights of marginalized populations. It was unacceptable then and remains unacceptable now that she and other women have been considered unworthy of the dignity and respect they deserve.”

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According to SHNS, Johnson lived in what is now North Andover, and was 22 years old when she was convicted in 1693. She was not executed, but her name was never formally cleared.

Johnson was one of over 170 people accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and 1693, according to Smithsonian Magazine. Of the accused, 19 were hung and one man was crushed to death.

Historians now cite mass hysteria and xenophobia as the cause of the trials, which remain the largest and most deadly witch hunt in the U.S., according to Smithsonian Magazine.

SHNS reported that a 1957 state legislative measure and a 2001 amendment officially pardoned most of the victims, but somehow Johnson was not included, and historians do not know why.

The effort to clear her name was started last year by teacher Carrie LaPierre’s North Andover Middle School eighth grade class. They urged DiZoglio to introduce legislation to clear Johnson’s name.

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