Friday, May 24, 2024

Goody Bassett Exonerated!

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Plaque Placed in Her Honor

It has been almost 372 years since Goody Bassett was sentenced to death for the crime of witchcraft. But after nearly four centuries, the obscure figure from Connecticut’s colonial period had her name cleared.

Goody Basset was officially exonerated on Thursday, October 26th with a ceremony on the Stratford Green, where a plaque set in stone (and fittingly under a tree!) was dedicated to her memory.

The resolution was proposed by the Stratford Historical Society, which urged the Stratford Town Council to reverse what it describes as a historic injustice organized by some of the colony’s most powerful individuals.

“The charge of witchcraft was ordinarily proffered to outspoken women of a lower social standing in the colony of Connecticut,” said David Wright, Stratford’s Town Historian. “Such women were oftentimes healers or midwives and, in several instances, widows. The charge of witchcraft was often used to settle property disputes, or as a tool to administer vengeance to an outspoken person.”

Bassett was hanged on May 15, 1651, following a trial overseen by Gov. John Haynes, one of the founders of the colony. Little is known about the details of the case, including who accused Bassett of witchcraft, and why.

Historians believe she was a victim of a witch hunt due to a short paragraph buried in colonial era documents that references the trial, as well as records from separate trials later held in Fairfield and New Haven.

Even less is known about Bassett herself, including her first name. Goody is short for Goodwife, which was a common way of addressing a married woman of low social standing during the colonial era.

A statewide effort, backed by the Connecticut Witch Trial Exoneration Project, was instrumental in Connecticut “witches” being exonerated. The organization is made up of descendants of accused witches, and researchers eager to see the victims cleared of wrongdoing.

“We want the state to acknowledge the injustice of the witchcraft accusations and trials, recognize the innocence of all who were accused of witchcraft, recognize the suffering of the accused and their families, clear the names of those who were accused, and apologize for all actions by colonial officials against the accused, their families, and their descendants,” wrote organization officials on the group’s website.

Bassett was one of eleven people who were executed for being a witch in Connecticut during a sixteen year period. The first execution was held in 1647 in Windsor, and the last took place in 1663 in Hartford.

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