Saturday, June 06, 2015

Society Saturday - Ancestors Among Us

The Associated Daughters of Early American Witches enjoyed a program by mother/daughter duo Debra Lynne and Addie Avery.  They have been involved in crusading for the exoneration of the Connecticut Witches.

Addie had learned of her ancestor Mary Sanford when she was 13 years old.  She launched a project which involved contacting various Connecticut legislators with the hope of exonerating her ancestor and others.  She told us about her efforts to clear their names.  It was very interesting to hear of Addie and Debra's quest to right a wrong that occurred almost 350 years ago.

The following was used with permission by the author in the Black Swan, Spring 2015 issue.  It was partially excerpted from “Begging Connecticut’s Pardon: A Quest for Posthumous Justice” by Kathleen Powers-Vermaelen, The Black Swan, Fall 2012, p. 2.

 Debra and her daughter Addie first learned of their descent from Mary Sanford, a victim of the Hartford Witch Panic, from a visiting cousin in the summer of 2005. It wasn't until they attended University of Connecticut Professor Walter W. Woodward's lecture that October, however, that they realized no official pardon had ever been offered by the state. "Immediately, Addie wanted to right the wrong," said Ms. Lynne. "She has always simply considered it a miscarriage of justice and [believes] that we collectively should be able to look back, acknowledge a wrong, set it right in spirit, and learn from past mistakes." Fueled by determination to see Connecticut's "witches" exonerated, teenaged Addie began a quest to obtain state recognition of the wrongful convictions.

Her efforts led to a meeting with State Senator Andrew Roraback and State Representative Michael P. Lawlor. The result of her efforts—S.J. Resolution No. 26: Resolution Concerning Certain Convictions in Colonial Connecticut—was proposed at the legislative session on March 20th, 2008. At the hearing Addie, her mother,  and Laura Barber Cayer, a descendant of Lydia Gilbert, testified about the shady evidence leading to the witchcraft convictions and officially requested exoneration of the convicted. Despite the abundant enthusiasm conveyed by judiciary committee members that day, the resolution fell by the wayside when the legislature ran out of time. "[We were] really disappointed," said Ms. Lynne. "It would have been easy for the Judiciary Committee to send the resolution to the House of Representatives, but it seemed like it just wasn't important enough."

To date, an official exoneration of Connecticut's "witches" remains stalled. Addie and her mother have not surrendered hopes, however, that something eventually will be done to honor the victims of Connecticut's witchcraft trials. "It keeps surfacing with inquiries here and there about the status of it," said Ms. Lynne. “This, we think, means that perhaps we're meant to see it through after all. Perhaps working towards one or two memorial plaques and then approaching the Governor on a proclamation might be the way to pursue it."

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