The last woman to be hanged in Boston as a witch was Goodwife ‘Goody’ Ann Glover, an Irish laundress. This North End resident was wildly accused in 1688 of practicing witchcraft by the infamous Reverend Coton Mather, pastor of the old North Church. Her Puritan accusers were caught up in a witch mania that was part of the rigid Puritanism of the time, attaching supernatural causes to things they couldn’t explain, especially medical conditions.
Glover was an Irish slave, sold to Barbados by Englishman Oliver Cromwell, during the occupation of Ireland in the 1650s. Persecuted for his own religious beliefs, her husband died there. By 1680 she and her daughter were settled in Boston, employed as housekeepers by John Goodwin. In the summer of 1688, four of the five Goodwin children fell ill. Their doctor concluded “nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the origin of these maladies.” Martha, the 13-year-old daughter, confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis by claiming she became ill right after an argument with Glover.
Glover was arrested and tried as a witch. In the courtroom there was confusion over Glover’s testimony, since she refused to speak English, even though she knew the language. According to Mather, “the court could have no answers from her, but in Irish, which was her native language.” The court convicted Glover of witchcraft and sentenced her to be hanged.
Robert Calef, a Boston merchant who knew her, says “Goody Glover was a despised, crazy, poor old woman, an Irish Catholick who was tried for afflicting the Goodwin children. Her behaviour at her trial was like that of one distracted. They did her cruel. The proof against her was wholly deficient. The jury brought her guilty. She was hung. She died a Catholick.”
Author James B. Cullen wrote, “she was drawn in a cart, a hated and dreaded figure, chief in importance, stared at and mocked at, through the principal streets from her prison to the gallows.The people crowded to see the end, as always; and when it was over they quietly dispersed, leaving the worn-out body hanging as a terror to evil-doers.”
During the trial Coton Mather called Glover “a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholick and obstinate in idolatry.” A decade after Glover was hanged Mather was still preaching against “idolatrous Roman Catholicks,” trying to preserve a parochial society in a world that was quickly changing. Many other Irish immigrants came to America as bond slaves or “redemptioners” and were not as steadfast in their Faith as Goody Glover, and drifted into Protestantism.
16th November 1988 the Boston City Council recognised the injustice done to Ann Glover 300 years earlier, and proclaimed that day ‘Goody Glover Day’, condemning what had been done to her.