When writing and sitting novels in certain eras and one want to remain authentic to the time period and its customs you will find that some of the practices were very demeaning, dehumanizing, and plain old cruel.
The scarlet letter and stockade was humiliating enough without the scold bridle and branks.
The ‘scold’s bridle’ or ‘branks’ used on gossiping women. Especially if the subject of the gossip was of a higher social class than herself.
The Scold’s Bridle was a device used for nearly four hundreds years on those one wanted to control or did not wish to listen to their c. An Iron ‘scold’s bridle’ or ‘branks’ mask or cage with large nose piece, grotesque ears and sometimes two horns, used to publicly humiliate and punish, mainly women, for speaking out against authority. Women who dared to speak in the presence of men. Especially women from the commoner or peasant class.
A husband could complaint to magistrate or constable and order one made for his wife have it locked upon his wife if she deemed too bossy, too nagging or simply talked too much.
There were many different kinds. The horrendous devices were made by blacksmiths, the bridle was a cage-like device, made from iron. It was approximately nine inches high and seven inches wide, and was fitted to the woman’s head.
The most basic type was made of a band of iron, which was hinged at the side and had a protruding part, or tongue piece, that could be flat or with a spike, which went into the woman’s mouth, to hold her tongue down. [Some of those used on slaves contained blades insides]. Another band of iron went over her head, the front of which was shaped for her nose to go through. Depending on the design, the bridle could be uncomfortable, painful or torturous, cutting and scarring of the tongue was not uncommon.
Some had a bell secured to a spring, which was attached to the bridle, so the wearer could be heard as she approached.
Some houses back then had a hook in the wall at the side of the fireplace where the wife would be chained, until she promised to behave herself and curb her tongue. Although sometimes fitted to a nagging wife by the local gaoler (jailer) at the request of her husband, or by the husband himself, it was more often a punitive sentence ordered by a magistrate. Judicial bridles were more elaborate than the basic type; they always had at least one spike and they could be locked. They also had a chain attached to the side of the bridle, with a ring on the end. This could be used to publicly humiliate the woman by leading her through the town, or staking her at a designated area for a set time period. Much like the stockade was used.
The amount of time the bridle was worn could be from 30 minutes to several hours, depending on the seriousness of the offence, during which time the slave, miscreant, or woman would not be able to eat or drink.
It was also said to be used on witches to prevent them from chanting or casting spells. Usually the ones used on witches had spike inside to kill her when the cage was closed.
Another device little is know about is a collar and lease for runaways wives. Yes, that’s right a collar and lease as if she was animal. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the collar and chain used on slaves.
What history doesn’t tell you is that these devices were used until they were abolished in the Emancipation Proclamation. You see the entire document is about more than emancipating the African American slaves. The usage of these instruments were considered a form of bondage.
No, these were not the only kinds of such devices that existed. There are others which I’m not telling you about because some of you might faint.