May 30, 2009

Goody Glover: Witch, Martyr, Irish Pub

A while ago I went to the North End, and came upon Goody Glover's, a bar notable for being both an Irish pub in an Italian neighborhood, and for being named after a 17th century Boston woman executed for witchcraft.

According to D. Brenton Simon's Witches, Rakes and Rogues, Goody Glover was a widowed Irish woman living in Boston with her daughter, a laundress in the 1680's. Goody Glover had a reputation as a foul-mouthed troublemaker, and her harried husband allegedly said shortly before he died "that she was undoubtedly a witch... and would quickly arrive unto the punishments due such a one."

In the summer of 1688 Martha Goodwin, the granddaughter of a prominent Puritan minister, accused Goody Glover's daughter of stealing some laundry, an accusation that Goody Glover answered with a string of profanity. Soon after, Martha and her three siblings began having the proverbial "strange fits" - a sure sign of witchcraft in Puritan Boston.

Goody Glover was arrested and put on trial as a witch. Although she spoke English, Goody frustrated the court by answering all questions in Gaelic. She never confessed to being a witch, but did confess to being a Catholic, which was probably almost as shocking back then.

Various rag dolls filled with goat hair were found in her home, which the court assumed were used to magically afflict the Goodwin children.

During the proceedings some physicians examined her to make sure she was not "crazed in her intellectuals and had not procured to herself by folly and madness the reputation of a witch." They declared her sane, and she was hanged on November 16, 1688. She was the fourth and final person executed for witchcraft in Boston.

A plaque outside the bar claims that she was executed for her Catholic faith, and was the first Catholic martyr in Massachusetts. Was she really executed because she was a Catholic? Plenty of other non-Catholics were accused of witchcraft and executed during this period. I think maybe her Catholicism was a sign that Goody was a strong-willed, nonconformist woman who didn't care what her neighbors thought - exactly the kind of person to be accused of witchcraft.

The pub's Website notes that November 16 is officially Goody Glover day in Boston.


Anonymous said...

That's a damn good story!

A Glover said...

My ancestors were Catholic Glovers who ended up in Georgia and South Carolina. I would be proud to think and claim Goody Glover as one of my family.

Peter Muise said...

Thanks for the comment! Perhaps you are related? Sadly the bar has gone out of business - I'm not sure if the plaque is still up.

Rich Clabaugh said...

Great story Peter! Witch hunts were such a crazy scary thing back in the day, but it's so sad that we still have to be on guard of it happening again.