Nurse, Rebecca (1621-1692)

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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.


Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft at Salem. New York: George Braziller, 1969.

Tapley, Charles Sutherland. Rebecca Nurse. Boston: Marshall Jones, 1930.