THERE are six spectacular women in the running for the Glasgow Times Scotswoman of the Year 2021 award.

Every day this week, we are sharing their stories.

Today, we meet Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi, the two women behind the inspirational Witches of Scotland campaign.


A LUCKY collision of events propelled Claire Mitchell QC and Zoe Venditozzi into creating a campaign to right one of Scottish history’s greatest wrongs.

Around the same time Claire was researching the witchcraft trials of the 16th to 18th centuries, and getting annoyed about the fact there are very few memorials to women across the country, writer and teacher Zoe was thinking about creating a podcast loosely based on true crime.

The two women met at a mutual friend’s wedding, got chatting about all of the above, and Witches of Scotland was born.

Glasgow Times: Zoe Venditozzi, left, and Claire Mitchell QC.

The campaign, which has inspired other grass-roots initiatives around the world, called for a legal pardon, an apology and a national monument for the thousands of people – overwhelmingly women – who were convicted of witchcraft and executed in Scotland between 1563 and 1736.

Already, it has achieved its first aim - First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has issued a Scottish Government apology - and the legalities surrounding the pardon are currently being scrutinised.

Glasgow Times:

“We both knew about the witchcraft trials, but considering they affected so many people – not just the 2500 who were executed, but the many more who were accused, their lives ruined as a result – this is a part of history that’s just not talked about,” explains Claire, who is originally from Glasgow but now lives in Dundee.

Glasgow Times: Execution by hanging of four women accused of being witches. Coloured engraving from 'Law and Custom of Scotland in Matters Criminal', by Sir George Mackenzie. Scotland, Edinburgh 1678. (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images)

“I read a lot about the interrogations, and one story just brought it home to me. A young woman asked her captors: ‘Can you be a witch and not know it?’

“I felt heart sorry for her. And the more I read about the way ordinary women, just going about their business, were arrested and tortured, and the stupidity of the allegations against them, the more I wanted to do something about it.”

Zoe, who lives in Fife, agrees.

“The idea behind the podcast was to raise awareness of the campaign and to bring in people who could talk about different aspects of it – Claire and I are not experts,” she explains.

“And as a result, we have built up this fantastic, body of work that’s a free resource for anyone interested.

“We are particularly proud of that because education is so important.”

She adds: “I’ve been contacted by so many women, who have been inspired to look into the women accused of witchcraft in their village or town, and tell their stories. It’s great to be part of that.”

READ MORE: East Kilbride activist who saved vital peatbog in running for SWOTY 2021

Recently, Claire and Zoe were delighted to learn the Catalan regional parliament had formally pardoned hundreds of women executed for witchcraft between the 15th and 18th centuries, after a campaign took inspiration from Witches of Scotland.

“We have also heard from many teachers who are using the podcast in the classroom, and that’s fantastic,” adds Claire. “Even if we achieve all three aims of the campaign, there is still much work to be done.

“We need to keep educating people about women’s history, to go back as far as we can to tell their stories - to bring them into the light.”