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Massachusetts Senate clears the name of accused witch



Katie Lannan

State senators on Thursday agreed to officially clear the name of a woman they described as the last person yet to be exonerated after the Salem Witch Trials.

While debating its nearly $50 billion budget, the Senate adopted an amendment from Methuen Sen. Diana DiZoglio adding Elizabeth Johnson Jr. to the resolution officially clearing the names of those wrongfully accused of witchcraft.

“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, also a Democratic candidate for auditor, said. “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.”

Johnson, who lived in what is now North Andover, was 22 when she was convicted in 1693. She was not executed but was never formally exonerated — DiZoglio has speculated that might be because she never married or had children and there were no descendants to advocate on her behalf. North Andover Middle School teacher Carrie LaPierre’s class picked up the cause, and DiZoglio said the students have written to Gov. Charlie Baker asking him to support the measure if it makes it into the final budget. Senate Majority Leader Cindy Creem said she learned of the issue because one of the students is related to her husband.

Creem, a Newton Democrat, tied Johnson’s case to current events including the leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, and said that while women who deviate from societal norms are no longer convicted of witchcraft, efforts to control women’s lives and bodies have persisted.

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