It took over three centuries before the last Salem witch was officially pardoned.
On Thursday, Massachusetts lawmakers exonerated Elizabeth Johnson Jr.
Johnson was not executed, but she was also not officially pardoned as other witchcraft-related accusations.
After a North Andover Middle School eighth-grade civics class took up her cause, and began researching the legislative steps required to clear her name, lawmakers agreed to reconsider her case.
The subsequent legislation, which was introduced by Diana DiZoglio (a state senator from Methuen), was added to a budget bill, and it was approved.
DiZoglio stated that while we will never be in a position to reverse the fate of victims like Elizabeth, at least we can make the record clear.
Carrie LaPierre, a North Andover teacher who championed the legislation, released a statement praising the students for taking up "the long-overlooked question of justice for the wrongly convicted woman."
She said, "Passing this legislation would be incredibly impactful in their understanding of how important is it to stand up for those who cannot advocate for themselves" and how powerful of a voice they have.
According to Witches in Massachusetts Bay, an organization dedicated to the history of 17th-century witch huntings, Johnson is the last of the accused witches to be cleared.
"For 300 years Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was silent, her story was lost to the passages in time," stated Joan Lovely, a state senator from Salem.
Twenty Salem residents and others were murdered and hundreds more were accused in a Puritan injustice that started in 1692. It was fueled by superstition and fear of disease, strangers, scapegoating, and petty jealousies. Nineteen people were executed and one was killed by rocks.
Johnson was 22 years old when Johnson was caught up in the hysteria surrounding the witch trials, and sentenced to death. It never happened: Then Gov. William Phips exonerated her because of the severity of the grossly flawed justice system in Salem.
Over the three centuries that followed, many suspects were officially cleared. Johnson's mother was the daughter of a minister, whose conviction was eventually reversed.
Johnson's name was not included in several legislative attempts to correct the record. Her convictions technically stand because she was not among the ones whose convictions were formally overturned. Johnson was not among those wrongly accused and she never had children. Therefore, her descendants were not able to take action on her behalf.
DiZoglio stated that "Elizabeth’s story and struggle still resonate strongly today." While we have come a long ways since the horrific witch trials, women still find their rights violated and their concerns ignored today.