Senate Approves DiZoglio Bill to Clear Name of North Andover Woman Convicted of Witchcraft

A 1711 law reversed convictions from the 1692 witchcraft trials, specifically naming 22 individuals. Lawmakers over the years have cleared the names of several others accused of witchcraft, and a bill before the Judiciary Committee would do the same for Elizabeth Johnson Jr. (Photograph courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

Sen. Diana DiZoglio has succeeded in her quest to clear the name of a North Andover woman convicted of witchcraft in 1693.

The Massachusetts Senate passed legislation clearing the name of Elizabeth Johnson Jr., the last person convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials who had yet to be exonerated. As WHAV reported first last July that DiZoglio filed the bill on behalf of North Andover Middle School civics students who researched Johnson’s life and the steps that would need to be taken to clear her name.

“My students have worked extremely hard over the past two years to draw attention to the long-overlooked issue of justice for this wrongly convicted woman,” said North Andover Middle School teacher Carrie LaPierre. “Passing this legislation will be incredibly impactful on their understanding of how important it is to stand up for people who cannot advocate for themselves and how strong of a voice they actually have.”

Starting in 1702, those who had been convicted, but not executed, started petitioning to have their convictions overturned. By the end of 1711, all of them had been exonerated except for Johnson who lived in the part of Andover that is North Andover today. DiZoglio said it is not clear why she was not exonerated. It may be because she was neither a wife nor a mother and not considered worthy of having her name cleared.

“Elizabeth’s story and struggle continue to greatly resonate today,” said DiZoglio, who successfully attached the bill as an amendment to the proposed Senate budget. “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. 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.”

A documentary spotlighting Johnson’s story, “The Last Witch,” is currently in production and features interviews with DiZoglio, LaPierre and the civics students who researched her life.

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