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Ann “Goody” Glover: Witch or Catholic Martyr?

More than 300 years ago, a kindly Irish Catholic woman living in Boston was accused of witchcraft by a group of anti-Catholic authorities, but the facts of the story point more to a woman who was martyred for her faith, not her witchcraft!

CNA is reporting on the story of Ann Glover, an Irish Catholic woman who was deported in the 1650’s during the occupation of Ireland by the staunch Puritan, Oliver Cromwell. The Glover family, along with some 50,000 other native Irish Catholics were enslaved by Cromwell and shipped to Barbardos to be sold as indentured servants. During her stay in Barbados, Ann’s husband was martyred after refusing to renounce his Catholic faith.

A few years later, Ann and her daughter, Mary, were brought to work in Boston where they became part of a small Catholic minority that was despised by the largely Puritan population. They survived by washing the clothes of their Puritan neighbors until they were brought to work as housekeepers for the Goodwin family.

According to the Irish Times, a dispute occurred over allegations that Mary Glover had stolen clothes that belonged to the Goodwins and this led to the Glovers being relieved of their job.

Shortly thereafter, four of the Goodwin children became ill with a strange affliction that caused sudden pains in various parts of their bodies.

An account written in 1889 by James Bernard Cullen entitled, The Story of the Irish in Boston, alleges that the children’s cries were “piteous and shrill, and the shifting of the pain from one [body] part to another was constant and inexplicable.”

At a time when the faithful were obsessed with the evils of Satan and witchcraft in particular, when a doctor examined the children and was unable to diagnose the cause of their affliction, it was blamed upon witchcraft. And because it was also a time when the Protestant Reformation was in full swing and anti-Catholicism was rampant, Ann Glover was named the culprit and promptly declared a witch.

Put in chains and sent to Boston, she was put on trial for practicing witchcraft. Boston’s leading preacher at the time was the Puritan icon, Cotton Mather, who declared her an “idolatrous Roman Catholick” which meant she had little chance of escaping conviction.

During the trial, to prove her guilt, she was instructed to recite the Our Father which she did in a mix of Gaelic and broken Latin. Instead of attributing this to the fact that she was not fluent in English, her accusers decided that she had a spell put on her by “another witch” in order to prevent her from revealing too much.

Sympathetic onlookers recorded that she looked “distracted” at the trial, saying that the “poor washerwoman” defended herself “unskillfully in her foreign gibberish [also known as Gaelic].”

As a result, Glover was convicted and sentenced to hang. On the day of her execution, it was said that the merciless crowd heckled her to the end. Her body was left hanging as a warning to others who might consider taking part in witchcraft.

The ordeal was so traumatizing that Mary Glover is said to have suffered a mental breakdown as a result and died soon after as “raving maniac.”

Ann Glover was the last person to be executed for witchcraft in Boston, but just four years later, and fifteen miles up the road, the Puritan obsession with witchcraft would explode into the infamous Salem witch trials which cost the lives of 19 “witches”.

Not far from the spot where Ann died, the parish of Our Lady of Victories erected a plague in 1988 commemorating the martyrdom of this innocent woman.

“Not far from here on 16 November 1688, Goodwife Ann Glover an elderly Irish widow, was hanged as a witch because she had refused to renounce her Catholic faith. Having been deported from her native Ireland to the Barbados with her husband, who died there because of his own loyalty to the Catholic faith, she came to Boston where she was living for at least six years before she was unjustly condemned to death. This memorial is erected to commemorate ‘Goody’ Glover as the first Catholic martyr in Massachusetts.”

As CNA reports, the Boston City Council also declared November 16 as “Goody Glover Day,” in order to condemn the injustice brought against her.

Father Robert O'Grady, director of the Boston Catholic Directory for the Archdiocese of Boston, said that she had not yet been officially declared a martyr, nor has her cause for canonization been opened, partly because her story has faded into obscurity.

“Part of the dilemma here (too) is that when she was hanged, Catholics were a tiny, minuscule, minority in Boston, so picking up her ‘cause’ was not easy or ‘on top of the list’,” Father O’Grady told CNA.

Although she is not an officially declared saint, anyone who was unjustly accused can definitely pray for the intercession of Ann Glover to help them to forgive and to heal, and to bring about an end to the injustice in our world today.

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