We all know about the stockades and the letters sewn on clothing, but not many know about the ‘scold’s bridle’ or ‘branks’ used on uncontrollable women.

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.





About unholypursuit

A. White, an award winning former librarian, who is also a long time member of Romantic Time and Publisher's Weekly. A. White has been writing for over fifteen years. She took classes in creative writing in college, specializing in ancient myths and legends. and later at a local community center while living in Chicago. In college she won the national contest to verbally list every country in the world, it's capital and ingenious language. Her works are mainly horror, fantasy, extreme, and sci-fi as well as, as some may says, "the truly strange predicament and puzzling." Books that I've written are "Clash with the Immortals, and eleven others which are part of the "Unholy Pursuit saga,". She has been working on the Chronicles since 2007. She wished to complete them all before introducing them to public so the readers wouldn't have to for the continuation to be written. The ideas of the book come from classic literature such as whose work greatly influence the world world such as Homer, Sophocles, Herodotus, Euripides, Socrates, Hippocrates, Aristophanes, Plato, Aristotle and many more. The "Book of Enoch" influenced the usage of Azazael as a main character and love interest. I created the primary main character from the Chronicle of Saints. I wanted to show them as real flesh and blood with thoughts, desires and yearning as any human. Not as they are so often depicted. So I created one of my own to show her as a real human that everyone can relate to.
This entry was posted in African American History, anger, animals, atrocity, Civil War, girl, girls, horror, Legal, life, women' rights and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to We all know about the stockades and the letters sewn on clothing, but not many know about the ‘scold’s bridle’ or ‘branks’ used on uncontrollable women.

  1. Fascinating post! I recall seeing a scold’s bridle in a museum once – rather grim. Makes the traditional punishment of the ducking stool look enlightened 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, those in power once ruled the less fortunate with an unyielding iron fist. The worse part about some of these practices were not repealed until the early 20th century. World War I ended the last of them.

      The ducking stool or the Cucking stools or ducking stools were chairs used for punishment of disorderly women, scolds and dishonest tradesmen in England, Scotland, and elsewhere. The cucking-stool was a form of wymen pine, or “women’s punishment,” as referred to in Langland’s Piers Plowman. People sometime drowned in these things or suffered a heartattack from fear.

      Stool of Repentance..an milder method than the ducking. A Presbyterian church practice. For the torture device, see Cucking stool. For the parlour game, see Stool of Repentance (game).
      Stool of Repentance and branks, Holy Trinity Church, St. Andrews

      The Stool of Repentance in Presbyterian polity, mostly in Scotland, was an elevated seat in a church used for the public penance of persons who had offended against the morality of the time, often through fornication and adultery. At the end of the service the offender usually had to stand upon the stool to receive the rebuke of the minister. It was in use until the early 19th century.

      Humiliation of sitting on the stool, being punished and publicly repenting sins drove some victims to suicide. In the case of pregnant women of such parishes who had not conceived with their husbands they would often elaborately conceal their pregnancy or attempt infanticide rather than face the congregation then Kirk Session. The kirk session is when they fuss at you and called you names.

      An alternative to, or commutation of, the Stool of Repentance was payment of buttock mail.

      A harp tune commemorates the tradition. Why was music playing? I have no idea. I guess to creep you out.

      Buttock mail:
      What’s buttock mail? It was the colloquial term for a Scottish Poor Law tax which was introduced in 1595. Enforced by the ecclesiastical courts who had responsibility for the moral behaviour of the laity, buttock mail was levied as a fine for sexual intercourse out of wedlock.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed, sadly.
        Cruel and unusual punishments indeed 😦

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, cruel and usual punishments were once the norm…although, I believe people knew better than to do those things to another human.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I would like to think so but it’s just too hard for us to put ourselves in their mindset. They grew up in an era where superstitions raged and organised religion held massive sway. Human rights and similar concepts of decency were probably quite alien to their life of constant struggle and death by 40 the norm 😦

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, you are right. They lived in an age ruled by superstitions and often controlled by organized religion which held massive hold in how things were conducted and could be judge and executor. And often were. The Inquisition lasted more than seven hundred years. The Spanish one was the most famous.

              I often sigh over the religious twisting of the works, acts, and words of the very religion they were allegedly following. Had they been doing what Jesus say they wouldn’t have done many of those things.

              Yes, I’m aware that Christianity wasn’t the only religion practiced then nor now, and many religions conducted or required human penance and sacrifices. Some even conducted hecatomb -an extensive loss of life was part of their practice. We are finding and excavating the result of their actions today.

              The basic nature of right and wrong is a part of every human’s nature. What we do with it…well, that’s a different story.
              I think those in power were using these things as a method of controlling the poor and remaining in power because those in power
              were very discriminating in who they harmed.

              Even back then, I believe some people knew these people were wrong because some stood up and fought back and won reformations to end these practices.

              Presently, we all are enjoying the fruits from the labor of those who fought back and decided to eliminate these harmful practices. I’m glad people learned better and did better.

              Liked by 1 person

              • I agree, there must be something in mankind – selfishness? greed? desire for power? – that constantly keeps our baser instincts alive even when we profess to follow or absorb doctrines and religions that encourage far higher emotions!

                Liked by 1 person

                • I, too, have wondered what makes mankind do many of the deplorable things we do. Why our base nature keep surfacing. Why the conscious urge, behavior, or intuition ruled by primeval, animalistic, self-serving, or ignoble motivations Some say it’s avarice. This very question gives rise to the theory that man is nothing more than advance animal. 🙂

                  Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, the life expectancy was very short as little as two hundred years ago. Forty was considered old.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Louvre says:

    Men were truly obsessed with controlling women back then. I guess still are. Roe proved they are.

    Liked by 1 person

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