I bet you wouldn’t expect a 4-year-old to qualify as a Badass Witch (I’ve only written about two so far, but here they are). This will be a much shorter story, but I feel you should know about this brave little girl.
Today I’d like to celebrate Dorothy Good and honor her life, which was gravely affected by accusations of witchcraft.
Was Dorothy Good an actual witch? I honestly don’t know, and no one could ever really “know.”
Maybe her mother was a witch and taught her. Maybe she actually identified as a witch. The label doesn’t matter, especially for my Badass Witches series. We’re just here to analyze who she was, what happened, and how witchcraft accusations destroyed a little girl. It’s horrible and emotional, so consider this a trigger warning. It was hard for me to research, so this is a heavy topic.
No photos of Dorothy Good exist, so I’m just going to use other four-year-olds to remind all of us how young this is.
Born in 1687 in Salem, Massachusetts, Dorothy Good was also known as “Dorcas Good.” Come on. I think this is a typo on the arrest warrant, as there are no records of her having that name. Still though. Even if “dork” didn’t exist as an insult then, that is just a hideous name. Sorry to anyone with that name, I hope you’ve taken on a nickname or something. In fact, tweet me if your name is actually Dorcas:My name is Dorcas, for real. Click To Tweet
Although “Dorcas Good” was the name on her arrest warrant, I will call her Dorothy from hereon out.
Let’s just take a moment to address the fact that A FOUR YEAR OLD WAS ARRESTED. Four.
I get that it was a different time, far more primitive, etc. but I truly don’t know what they thought would result from interrogating a four-year-old girl. This just seems like purposeful cruelty. The interrogation itself was extremely traumatizing, which we’ll get into in a bit.
Dorothy’s mother, Sarah Good, was also accused of witchcraft. I haven’t written about her yet, but I plan to. I just got so distracted by the fact that her toddler was arrested that I had to pivot first.
Sarah was accused first. After she was arrested and jailed, they came after Dorothy.
Two of the people who were instrumental in witchcraft trials (Ann Putnam and Mary Walcott) accused Dorothy of practicing witchcraft.
“I saw the Apparition of Dorothy Good, Sarah Good’s daughter who did immediately almost choke me and tortured me most grievously: and so she hath several times since tortured me by biting and pinching and almost choking me, tempting me also to write in her book, and also on the day of her examination, the Apparition of Dorothy Good tortured me during the time of her Examination and several times since.”– Ann Putnam, dumb accusing bitch
I understand that these girls were troubled themselves, and maybe didn’t understand the gravity of their accusations. Regardless, this is horrible and their actions led to many deaths. I think we should use the accusers’ issues as an explanation, not an excuse.
They claimed Dorothy was “deranged” and bit them “like an animal.” Again, she’s FOUR. No one stepped in? Not a single other adult thought “hmm, maybe a four-year-old girl shouldn’t be subjected to this.”
I know they interview children about crimes today, but it’s way different from what Dorothy went through. Buckle in, because the interrogations are ridiculous.
Dorothy Good, An Interrogation
First, Dorothy had a hearing. Her accusers claimed she had bitten them and had bite marks on their arms. Apparently that was enough evidence, and she was jailed.
According to Wikipedia, Dorothy was held in jail from March 24th through December 10th. Almost nine months of jail. I just cannot wrap my head around this. Part of the reason may have been that her bail was set at £50, which is equal to $7,820.00 today.
Data varies on how long she was interrogated. Some sources say three days, others say two weeks.
Again, who knows if this “confession” is real. When you interrogate a four year old for days at a time, it’s possible they may start making shit up, just to get you off their back.
I’m always surprised when people admit to things they didn’t do. However, people get to a certain point where they just say what they think they need to say, so that they can go home. Of course, it doesn’t work out that way, but if it happens to adults, it could definitely happen to a small child.
After days (or weeks, the timeline varies) of interrogation, Dorothy confessed that her mother was a witch.
I sort of doubt this story is real, since it was given under duress and there are no reports saying that this snake existed. The only information about the snake came from Dorothy herself.
Dorothy claimed that her mother had given her a pet snake that spoke to her. She also said the snake bit her on her finger, and had a bite mark indicating that this may have been true. Perhaps she was bitten by a wild snake, perhaps this was her “familiar,” but the court assumed the latter.
A “familiar” is a witchy term for an animal one keeps very close. Witches today will often refer to their pets as “familiars,” as they are now allowed to do that without fear of being executed.
Toddlers are also known for their honesty, so it is possible that Dorothy did have a snake or was bitten by one. Does that mean she’s a witch? Hell no. Many people own snakes (although probably not many back then) and are not witches.
Sarah Good’s Punishment
I’m going to write about Sarah Good in full, but here’s a shortened version for this story:
Both Dorothy and Sarah were moved to another prison, because the local prison was so full of accused witches that there was no room. I can’t find if they were allowed to be together or not. Dorothy was kept in shackles and chains, like every other prisoner. Sarah was pregnant at the time and gave birth to a daughter in jail. However, the baby died shortly after birth. The girl was named Mercy and is said to have died “likely from malnourishment and the harsh conditions of imprisonment.”
We don’t know much about prison life in the 1690s, but I’m going to assume it was pretty bad.
When you add to the fact that this four-year-old girl was separated from her home and parents (and maybe pet snake), that had to be traumatizing. Just the things you would see in a jail would probably be traumatizing, let alone if your brain hadn’t fully formed yet and you have no idea what is happening.
Sarah Good was hanged for witchcraft on July 19th, 1692. Dorothy’s testimony was instrumental in her trial and death.
Dorothy was never charged with witchcraft herself. After her father paid her bail, she was said to have changed dramatically.
By that time, the child suffered from grave psychological damage that would destroy the rest of her life. By some historic accounts, she had become insane.– Historic Ipswitch, Gordon Harris
This isn’t surprising. The hell she went through must have been unbearable.
Apparently, she received reparations from The State of Massachusetts. There is no amount of money that would make this situation okay.
According to The Salem Witch Trials Reader, Dorothy’s father was unable to care for her after her release from prison. Her father considered her a financial burden, having to pay a caretaker to look after her. This quote is particularly heartbreaking:
After her mother’s death, Dorcas Good wandered the streets, lost, and confused without her mother to guide her. She, later on, died poor & homeless in the streets of Salem Town, M.A. at just sixteen years old.– Crime Theories Podcast
While Dorothy Good was the youngest to be accused of witchcraft, she was hardly the only one.
Many people died during the Salem Witch Trials, and I plan to cover all of them. Even today, people are accused of worshipping Satan by people with sticks up their asses. Luckily, they are allowed to live (and even occasionally benefit from the press). Times have changed, but not enough.
Whether or not she had a pet snake, and whether or not she was a young witch in training, Dorothy Good suffered tremendously under the guise of religious purity.
I’d love to say she didn’t live in vain, that there was some meaning or positive outcome that came from this. I’m coming up empty. This is just a sad, depressing story about a toddler who was tortured in order to execute her mother. Hopefully, remembering her and her legacy will help us from repeating the past.