Mary Webster (alleged witch)

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Mary Webster, née Reeve, was a resident of Puritan Hadley, Massachusetts, who was accused of witchcraft. She was born in England. Her exact birth year is unknown but is believed to be around 1624. Accounts of her birthdate range from 1617 to 1624. Both her father and her brother were named Thomas Reeves. Her father lived in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her mother's name is not known.

She was accused of witchcraft. Later, she was hanged from a tree by some residents of Hadley. According to one of several accounts, she was left hanging all night. It is known that when she was cut down she was still alive and lived for another 14 years. Canadian author Margaret Atwood, who believed Mary to be her ancestor, made Webster the subject of her poem "Half-Hanged Mary," and dedicated her novel The Handmaid's Tale (1985) to her. No records exist of Webster having had any children.

Perhaps the most exhaustive account of Mary Webster's disputes with Philip Smith and the subsequent accusations and witchcraft trial comes from Cotton Mather's Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions: A Faithful Account of many Wonderful and Surprising Things, that have befallen several Bewitched and Possessed Persons in New-England. Mather does not identify Mary Reeve Webster personally, but the dates and names that are included leave little doubt that her case is the one being documented. Webster's case is Cotton Mather's "second exemple" in the text.


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