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Connecticut lawmakers exonerate 12 people convicted of witchcraft during 17th century


In this Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 photo, Beth Caruso, author and co-founder of the CT Witch Trial Exoneration Project, which was created to clear the names of the accused, stands on the old town green in Windsor, Conn., where in 1651, an accident during a local militiamen training exercise led to the accusation of witchcraft and hanging of Lydia Gilbert. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
In this Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023 photo, Beth Caruso, author and co-founder of the CT Witch Trial Exoneration Project, which was created to clear the names of the accused, stands on the old town green in Windsor, Conn., where in 1651, an accident during a local militiamen training exercise led to the accusation of witchcraft and hanging of Lydia Gilbert. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
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Senators in Connecticut voted in favor of a resolution to exonerate a dozen people who were convicted of witchcraft within the state at least 375 years ago.

Eleven of the 12 were hanged, with 45 others accused.

The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, a group of volunteers that joined forces to clear the names of the accused, shared an image on Thursday. The photo showed the results of the vote, which was 33-1.

Yes! It passed on the eve of the 376th anniversary of the first witch hanging in New England, that of Alice Young. After her unjust death, the floodgates opened for more witch hangings, indictments and accusations," the group wrote on Facebook. "This resolution recognizes the suffering of the victims and the injustice of the witch trials in Connecticut during the 17th century."

The resolution passed the House earlier this week.

Since 2005, Connecticut residents, descendants of witch trial victims, and others have worked to exonerate those accused of witchcraft in Connecticut," according to the group's website. "The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project was created to coordinate these efforts. Massachusetts has exonerated those convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Witch-Hunt of 1692-1693."

The Associated Press reported that "distant family members" of the women and men who were convicted were present for the votes, with some lawmakers apologizing for the “miscarriage of justice” that occurred during the state’s colonial history.

"Some of the descendants recently learned through genealogy testing that they were related to the accused witches and have since lobbied the state’s General Assembly to officially clear their names," The Associated Press reported.

Ahead of the vote, the group encouraged "followers, descendants, and champions of CT witch trial victims" to contact their respective lawmakers and vote in favor of its passage.

THANK YOU so much for all your emails to the CT Senators," the group tweeted.

The resolution noted "that all of the formally convicted and executed are absolved of all crimes of witchcraft and familiarities with the devil." The legislature absolved the following people:

  • Alice Young in 1647
  • Mary Johnson in 1648
  • Joan Carrington in 1651
  • John Carrington in 1651
  • Goodwife Bassett in 1651
  • Goodwife Knapp in 1653
  • Lydia Gilbert in 1654
  • Mary Sanford in 1662
  • Nathaniel Greensmith in 1663
  • Rebecca Greensmith in 1663
  • Mary Barnes in 1663

It also acknowledged Elizabeth Seager, who was convicted and reprieved in 1665.

The Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project noted that the resolution is a way to "recognize and address the wrongs of the past. Connecticut is taking a stand against injustice. Connecticut is taking a stand against misogyny. Connecticut is also taking a stand against witch-hunting, which will resonate in parts of the world where witchcraft accusations continue to lead to violence today. By acknowledging the mistakes of the past, we educate the public that similar actions are not acceptable today."

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The group also said it is working for a permanent memorial to all victims of the witch trials.