By Bob Katzen
The Senate approved an amendment clearing the name of Elizabeth Johnson who in 1693 was the last person convicted of witchcraft, at the height of the Salem Witch Trials. Johnson was sentenced to death by hanging but was never executed. The state approved legislation in the 1900s that cleared the names of those who were executed and had not been exonerated, but that excluded Johnson. She never had children so there has never been a group of descendants pushing for exoneration.

Sen. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) filed the bill on behalf of middle school civics class students in North Andover. Johnson lived in the part of Andover that is North Andover today.

“This legislation would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of [their teacher] Carrie LaPierre and her students,” said DiZoglio. “They are to be celebrated for stepping up to the plate and having the courage to be a voice for someone who hasn’t had a voice for so long. We will never be able to change what happened to victims like Elizabeth but at the very least, can set the record straight. If we do not right the wrongs of the past, history is destined to repeat itself. I am so proud that these students stood up and spoke out for justice—setting an example for us all.”

“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 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.”

“With the passage of this amendment, justice can finally and fully be delivered to all the victims of the Salem Witch Trials,” said Salem Sen. Joan Lovely. “For 300 years, Elizabeth Johnson was without a voice, her story lost to the passages of time. Thanks to the tireless efforts of civics students at North Andover Middle School, her life and wrongful conviction have been brought to light.”

“The Last Witch,” a documentary featuring Johnson’s story, is currently in production.

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