Nurse, Rebecca (1621–1692)
Alleged witch executed at Salem Village (now Danvers),
Massachusetts, in 1692. Rebecca Nurse was born Rebecca
Towne in Yarmouth, England, and baptized on February 21,
1621. She was still a youth when her family moved to Massachusetts
and settled at Topsfield. At some point she married Francis
Nurse, and they settled at Salem. In 1678 they purchased
a farm near Salem Village. They had fours sons and four
daughters. Until 1692 Rebecca Nurse was well-respected by her
neighbors.
After several young girls in the community began to complain
of being attacked by the spectres of several women who
were accused of witchcraft, accounts of such affliction grew.
One of the girls interrupted a church service with her accusations,
and afterward the Nurses stopped going to church.
Eventually the young girls singled out Rebecca Nurse, and
on March 23, 1692, she was arrested and, although sick at the
time, confined to jail. During her initial hearing a number of
her acquaintances spoke highly of her. The primary evidence
against her were the spectral allegations, the girls’ claim she afflicted
them through her spirit. Possibly her deafness, a condition
she developed in later years, and her subsequent inability
to respond adequately to questions put to her tilted the jury
against her in the end. She was finally excommunicated from
her church and was hung on July 19, 1692, the same day as
Goodwife Good and three other convicted witches were hung.
Sources
Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft at Salem. New York George
Braziller, 1969.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Nurse, Rebecca
1127
Tapley, Charles Sutherland. Rebecca Nurse. Boston Marshall
Jones, 1930