Ann Glover: The Irish washerwoman hanged as a witch in Boston

By Martin Gleeson

During Oliver Cromwell’s occupation of Ireland in the 1650s, Ann Glover and her husband were deported to the Caribbean as indentured servants. They had a daughter Mary, and Ann worked with her husband on a sugar plantation in Barbados. Of course, they were native Irish speakers.

Ann’s husband died on the plantation, possibly killed for not renouncing his Catholic faith. That left Ann a mother and widow in a tropical country very different from Ireland. She decided to move to Boston, where Puritans had founded the Massachusetts Bay colony.

By 1680 Ann and her daughter Mary were living in Boston. She was known as Goody (short for ‘good-wife’) Glover, which was the way ladies were addressed in those days. Ann and Mary found employment as housekeepers with the family of John Goodwin. Ann’s job was do the washing and to look after his five daughters.

In the summer of 1688, one of the Goodwin daughters, Martha, accused Ann of stealing laundry. This led to a fierce argument between Ann and the Goodwin children. Rumours said that this caused the children to become ill and behave strangely. They barked like dogs and meowed like cats!

When a doctor was called to treat the Goodwin children, he suggested that their illness had been caused by witchcraft and that they had been “bewitched.”

Ann was arrested and charged with witchcraft.

Ann’s main accuser was the Reverend Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister who believed that Satan had an active presence on earth and that the Massachusetts colony had been abandoned by God. He wrote that Ann was “a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholic and obstinate in idolatry.”

At her trial Ann was instructed to recite the Lord’s Prayer. She recited it in the Irish language and broken Latin, but not in English. Her accusers believed that anyone who could not recite the Lord’s Prayer was a witch.

When Ann’s house was searched, they found little homemade dolls.

Reverend Mather accused her of using the dolls for witchcraft.

He visited Ann in prison and later told the jury that she admitted to him that she had had nighttime trysts with the Devil and other evil spirits.

Ann was examined by six doctors and five of them declared her to be of sound mind.

She was found guilty of witchcraft and sentenced to be put to death by hanging.

When Ann was taken out to be hanged, she told the crowd that her death would not relieve the Goodwin children of their illnesses. She declared that another witch had inflicted them. They onlookers shouted and mocked her.

On November 16, 1688 Ann Glover was hanged.

Ann did not know that a few years later in Salem, only 20 miles away, thirty people would be found guilty of witchcraft and nineteen would be hanged.

In 1988, the Boston City Council proclaimed November 16 as Goody Glover Day.

Also, a memorial plaque to GOODWIFE ANN GLOVER, the first Catholic martyr of Massachusetts was placed at Our Lady of Victories Church in South Boston.

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