I recently discovered that I am the descendant of a witch. To be specific, I am the 9th great-granddaughter of Susannah North Martin, one of the women executed in the Salem witch trials.
Of course, Susannah, nor any of the other women accused in the trials, was a witch as traditionally described with the broom and black pointed hat. She was not a sorceress conjuring magic spells that made young girls convulse in fits, as was the testimony against her. However, that doesn’t diminish my fascination with this newly discovered family member, rather it encourages it all the more.
Susannah was a strong woman, known to speak her mind. A very dangerous personality in colonial Massachusetts. Women were expected to be quiet and compliant. Susannah had been accused of witchcraft previously years before, but was fortunate to have her husband pay a fine of 20 shillings to protect her from the claims. By 1692, Susannah was a widow and did not have the benefit of such resources to protect her as the hysteria grew.
Susannah appears to have been particularly spunky – known as the “laughing witch” due to her reaction of laughter during the trial at the outrageous charges against her. When asked why she laughed, she replied, “Well I may at such folly. I never hurt a man, woman or child.” Ironically, she was known to deeply love God and frequently quote scripture. She simply had opinions and spoke her mind, a crime worthy of conviction during the frenzy of the Salem witch trials.
I find Susannah’s story inspiring. While a tragedy that she perished in this false attack, that she stood resolute against the charges tells of her strength of character to the end. Thankfully, she was the mother of eight children, which allows for many descendants to share her legacy. A memorial plaque in her honor says, “An honest, hardworking, Christian woman. Accused as a witch, tried, and executed at Salem, July 19, 1692. A martyr of superstition.”
I celebrate the witches among us, and those that have come before us, leading the way – unafraid to speak their truth and to stand up for themselves. We celebrate her now over 300 years later. The knowledge of this strong woman in my family tree is encouraging – may Susannah’s spirit live on.
(Special thanks to my father’s cousin, Kathy Haynes Harty for sharing her research of our famous witch with me.)
Image credit: https://freevintageillustrations.com/the-little-witch/