One Tough Irish Woman

Jan 15, 2014 by

Above all else, deep in my soul, I’m a tough Irishwoman.

Maureen O’Hara, born August 17, 1920 in Dublin, Ireland


The Divine Miss M, Maureen O’Hara–you can take the woman out of Ireland, but you can’t take the Irish out of the woman.


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Bleak November in Boston, 1688: Witches, Gaelic and Prejudice in the American Colonies

Nov 17, 2013 by

Approximately 325 years ago, on November 16, 1688, an old Irish woman in Boston was charged with witchcraft and hanged for her allegedly malevolent acts against the children of a local Protestant family. Her real crime, in fact, was simply being an Irish Catholic who spoke Irish Gaelic in 17th century Protestant Massachusetts.

A woodcut depiction of a witch in 1643.

A woodcut depiction of a witch in 1643.

Today, if you ask the average person what culture and people are most connected with Boston, a majority will choose the Irish. It is a bitter irony, however, that Boston was at one time a potentially lethal place to be Irish, and even worse, an Irish Catholic female.

Goodwife Ann “Goody” Glover was a poor woman of Irish birth who was sold into slavery in Barbados by Oliver Cromwell in the mid 1600’s. Cromwell was an English military and political leader whose brutal treatment of the Irish and Scots in the 17th century has been characterized as almost genocidal by many historians. Ann and her husband were just two of the thousands of native Irish who were cruelly rounded up by Cromwell’s troops between 1649 to 1652 and then sent to work(against their will) on the English sugar plantations of the Caribbean.

Little is known of Ann’s life prior to her arrival in the American Colonies. We do know from records of her trial that she spoke Irish Gaelic, although she also acquired some knowledge of English during her enslavement. Her true name cannot be authoritatively determined; it is likely that “Ann Glover” is an Anglicization of her original Gaelic name or perhaps a name given by her slave master, who may have used his own surname as a way to identify Ann as his property. How and why Ann came to Boston is unknown, but her husband did not make the journey with her–he died in Barbados after refusing to renounce his Catholic faith.

By 1680, Ann and her daughter(whether she had more children is unknown) had been in Boston for about six years, with the daughter employed as a housekeeper for John Goodwin. In the summer of 1688, four years before the notorious Salem witch trials began, four of the Goodwin children became ill–suspicion quickly fell on Ann and her daughter as the cause of the sicknesses. Ann, elderly, poor and perhaps a bit senile, was eventually singled out as the source of the children’s maladies and was soon arrested and brought to trial for practicing witchcraft.

Anti-Irish Prejudice in 17th-18th Century America

Anti-Irish Prejudice in 17th-18th Century America

At her trial, Ann’s refusal to speak English was seen by Cotton Mather, the highly influential and fiercely anti-Catholic Puritan minister and writer, as particularly indicative of her evilness:

“While the miserable old Woman was under Condemnation, I did my self twice give a visit unto her. She never denyed the guilt of the Witchcraft charg’d upon her; but she confessed very little about the Circumstances of her Confederacies with the Devils; only, she said, That she us’d to be at meetings, which her Prince and Four more were present at. As for those Four, She told who they were; and for her Prince, her account plainly was, that he was the Devil. She entertained me with nothing but Irish ‘, which Language I had not Learning enough to understand without an Interpreter.”

Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions, Cotton Mather, 1689

Mather also called Ann “a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholic and obstinate in idolatry.” Magnalia Christi Americana (roughly, The Glorious Works of Christ in America), Cotton Mather, 1702

At trial, Ann was asked to recite The Lord’s Prayer, which she did in Gaelic and broken Latin, but could not do  in English as she had not learned the prayer in that foreign language.  Unsurprisingly, Ann was convicted of witchcraft and hanged in public on November 16, 1688. The Protestant, English-speaking Scots-Irish of Ulster had bettered their lives by coming to America, but Catholic, Irish-speaking Ann Glover may have been better off had she stayed a slave in Barbados and never set foot on American soil.

Cotton Mather went on to publish several pamphlets that espoused the dominant Puritan narrative of the day, a treacherous construct built of layer upon layer of abject falsehoods. Fueled by his own anti-Catholic biases and superstitious hatred of “witchery”, Mather became a driving force in the witchcraft hysteria that dangerously engulfed the colonies over the next decade. No doubt, some of the later accusations also had non-religious motives such as jealousy and misogyny.  People from all faiths were accused of and executed for witchcraft during those years, but poor Irishwoman Ann Glover was the model upon which all subsequent persecutions were based.


A plaque in the North End recalls Ann Glover. Nov. 16 in Boston has been officially declared Goody Glover Day.
Steve Coronella-

Three hundred years after Ann Glover’s execution for witchcraft, the Boston City Council proclaimed November 16 as Goody Glover Day, in recognition of Ann as the first Catholic martyr in Massachusetts.


Sources: Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions,Cotton Mather, 1689–a must read if you want to gain a better understanding of the outrageous charges brought against Ann Glover, and to understand Cotton Mather’s motivations in condemning Ann. Robert Calef’s rebuttal of Cotton Mather’s writings about witchcraft in Massachussetts–Calef was a wealthy Boston merchant who knew both Ann Glover and Cotton Mather and considered Ann’s trial and execution a perversion of justice.

Boston Globe, November 14, 2012

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