The original story appears HERE:
The New York Times
April 13, 2008
Of Witches and the Wait for Justice
By MAURA J. CASEY
In 1662, the colonists of Hartford accused 39-year-old Mary Sanford of witchcraft. Based on evidence — drinking wine and dancing around a bonfire — the court pronounced her guilty “for not having the feare of God before thyne eyes.” Sanford was hanged, leaving behind five children and a shaken husband who was later acquitted of similar charges.
More than three centuries later, Sanford’s descendants, 14-year-old Addie Avery and her mother, Debra, of New Milford, Conn., have petitioned the State Legislature to exonerate their distant grandmother and 10 other people executed for witchcraft. The fight has taught them something, perhaps more than they wanted to know, about the mob mentality.
The Averys did not always know they had a forebear accused of being a witch. A relative told them of their lineage and Sanford’s fate before a 2005 lecture on the Connecticut colony’s witch trials, which were sparked by widespread hysteria long before the better-known Salem witch trials of 1692. The lecture led to research, and the Averys took the first small steps toward asking the Legislature for exoneration. Along the way, they have learned what comes of taking a public stand.
Addie, who is home-schooled, researched every witch case in the colony. She was surprised to learn that all but two of the executed were women. Community leaders had presided over trials where the accused were usually the least educated and the least powerful. Women fit that bill nicely.
(Not much has changed there. Of the 170 people Connecticut has executed in over 300 years, only one was a college graduate, said Lawrence B. Goodheart, a University of Connecticut professor of history.)
Soon, the Averys’ lobbying attracted the support of other descendants of those who were accused. But critics spoke out, too, lashing out on Internet blogs. Ms. Avery was shaken to read the harsh comments, which reminded her of the mob frenzy that her ancestor faced. “The world has changed, but people haven’t,” she said.
Addie said she got a new education when she decided to publicly defend her ancestor. To her mother’s amazement, the attacks didn’t bother the suddenly thick-skinned teenager. “There are worse things than mockery,” Addie said. “Now, I’m not afraid to stand up when I see something wrong.”
Connecticut is slow to admit fault. It is not likely to soon join such states as Massachusetts and Virginia in acknowledging the injustice done to those accused in the witch hunts. A legislative committee passed on the issue this year.
But the prospect of returning to the Legislature next year, attending hearings and beginning the process all over again doesn’t seem to bother the Averys, least of all Addie. It may have taken more than 340 years, but finally someone is speaking up for Mary Sanford.
“I’ve discovered myself by honoring Mary,” Addie said.
- ► 2016 (20)
- ► 2015 (32)
- ► 2012 (18)
- ► 2009 (11)
- ▼ April (3)
- ► 2007 (27)