A Thanksgiving Remembrance

 

Harvard Professor and historian Arthur Schlesinger once called prejudice against the Catholic Church . . . the deepest bias in the history of the American people.  American historians are reluctant to admit to such bias, so it is understandable that no history books carry the story of Ann Glover.  Ann was an American Martyr, and her story puts an entirely different slant on the holiday that we celebrate in November.

The story begins with the Puritans, who were probably the most intolerant Christians to ever crack a bible.  They overthrew the monarchy in England, beheaded the King, and attacked Ireland under the ruthless Cromwell.  Any Irishman knows the result of Cromwell’s incursions into Ireland.  His fanatically anti-Catholic Puritan religion denounced any who enjoyed the simple pleasures of life such as singing, dancing, games of chance and drinking.  When they got to Ireland, they were horrified by the life style of the Irish which basically included all of the above, and hundreds of thousands of Catholic men, women, and children were slaughtered in the name of Christ.

After the monarchy was restored, the Puritan’s descendants were chased to America where, modern revisionist historians would have us believe that they befriended the Indians and hosted the first Thanksgiving.  In the years that followed, they have become the icons of civilized Christian behavior.  But hold on!  Let’s go back to the history books!  Aren’t these the same benevolent Christians who turned on those in their own community who were different, and hanged them or burned them at the stake as witches?  It sure is, and one of them was Anne Glover, an Irish laundress who was caught up in a witch mania that was part of the rigid Puritanism of the time.  The superstitious Puritans attached supernatural causes to anything they couldn’t explain – even medical conditions.

Glover had been an Irish slave, sold to the Barbados by Oliver Cromwell after his wars in Ireland in the 1650s. Persecuted for his religious beliefs, her husband died there.  By 1680 she and her daughter had either escaped or were sold, but ended up in Boston, employed as housekeepers by a Puritan, John Goodwin.  In the summer of 1688, four of the five Goodwin children fell ill.  Their doctor, who was unable to diagnose a legitimate cause, covered his own inability by concluding that nothing but a hellish Witchcraft could be the origin of these maladies.  Martha, the 13-year-old Goodwin daughter, confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis by claiming she became ill right after an argument with ‘Goody’ Glover.

Glover was accused of practicing witchcraft by the infamous Reverend Cotton Mather, pastor of the old North Church, – a name familiar to most school children who never heard of Anne Glover.  She was arrested and tried as a witch.  Mather alleged that Anne was a witch because, among other things, she had the artifacts of a witch.  The truth is that she was Irish and Catholic and that put her at a decided disadvantage among the bigoted Puritans who denounced the veneration of images.  Of necessity, Ann Glover had practiced her religion in secret, but when accused, her home was searched and pictures of Jesus Christ were found.  These artifacts were enough to condemn her in the eyes of Cotton Mather, but the final argument against her was given when a witness said that she overheard Ann speaking in a strange language.  Her accuser assumed that Ann was conversing with the devil.  The truth is that the poor woman was simply praying in private in the way she knew best – in her native Irish tongue.  During the trial Cotton Mather called her a scandalous old Irishwoman, very poor, a Roman Catholick (sic) and obstinate in idolatry.   In the courtroom there was confusion over Glover’s testimony, since she refused to speak English.  According to Mather, the court could have no answers from her, but in the Irish, which was her native language.  The court convicted Glover of witchcraft and sentenced her to be hanged.

Robert Calef, a Boston merchant who knew her, said Goody Glover was a despised, crazy, poor old woman, an Irish Catholick (sic) who was tried for afflicting the Goodwin children. Her behavior at her trial was like that of one distracted. They did her cruel. The proof against her was wholly deficient. The jury brought her guilty. She was hung. She died a Catholick (sic).   The cause of her ‘distraction’ at trial was no doubt due to the torturous treatment she had undergone during her pre-trial confinement.  Author James B. Cullen wrote, she was drawn in a cart, a hated and dreaded figure, chief in importance, stared at and mocked at, through the principal streets from her prison to the gallows . . . The people crowded to see the end, as always; and when it was over they quietly dispersed, leaving the worn-out body hanging as a terror to evil-doers.

A decade after Glover’s death, Mather was still preaching against idolatrous Roman Catholicks, trying to preserve a dying society in a world that was quickly changing.  Many other Irish immigrants came to America as slaves, indentured or otherwise; some were not as firm in their Faith as Goody Glover, and drifted into Protestantism.

On November 16, 1988, the Boston City Council finally recognized the injustice done to Ann Glover 300 years earlier and proclaimed that day “Goody Glover Day”, condemning the injustice done to her.  They even erected a memorial to her.  Maybe this Thanksgiving, when we gather around a table heaped with the bounty of the harvest, instead of remembering the Puritans, we can remember Anne Glover, who when offered freedom by Cotton Mather if she rejected Catholicism, refused and became Massachusetts first Catholic martyr.  Isn’t it curious that eight of America’s early 17th century martyrs were canonized, but not Anne?  But then the eight canonized were all killed by Indians and Anne Glover, who died for her faith in Boston, was murdered by Englishmen.  Is that why her memory is suppressed by history and by her church?