SALEM, Mass. – A woman who was convicted in the 1693 Salem Witch Trials may soon get her name cleared, thanks to a group of middle school students and their classroom project.
Elizabeth Johnson Jr. was condemned during the witch trials but was never executed, The Associated Press reported.
The teens researched the accused witch and found out what it would take to get her pardoned.
“It is important that we work to correct history,” DiZoglio said this week, according to the AP. “We will never be able to change what happened to these victims, but at the very least, we can set the record straight.”
Johnson was 22 at the time of the trials and had been sentenced to hang although her punishment was never carried out because then-Gov. William Phips threw out her sentence. But her conviction was never officially overturned, the AP reported.
“It showed how superstitious people still were after the witch trials,” Artem Likhanov told the AP. Artem was one of the students who researched Johnson’s history. “It’s not like after it ended people didn’t believe in witches anymore. They still thought she was a witch and they wouldn’t exonerate her.”
Her conviction also may have been forgotten because she was never married and never had children.
“Why Elizabeth was not exonerated is unclear but no action was ever taken on her behalf by the General Assembly or the courts,” DiZoglio said. “Possibly because she was neither a wife nor a mother, she was not considered worthy of having her name cleared. And because she never had children, there is no group of descendants acting on her behalf.”
According to Salem.org, the trials started after the daughter and niece of Rev. Samuel Parris both fell ill in January 1692. When they didn’t get well, the doctor who had been called in to treat them said they were bewitched.
When all of the trials were done, five men and 14 women were hanged for witchcraft, one man was pressed to death and others died in prison. More than 150 people from towns surrounding Salem were arrested and charged with witchcraft.
For more on the history of the Salem Witch Trials, click here.
Johnson’s name isn’t the first to be cleared in the centuries that have followed the witch trials. Johnson’s mother had been pardoned.
DiZoglio’s bill was introduced earlier this year and a hearing was scheduled for last month. It is an amendment to a bill from 1957 that was last amended in 2001, which exonerates those convicted of witchcraft.
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