The Scold’s Bridle: ‘Punishment’ (Torture) Device for ‘Shrews’ (Uppity Women)
Transcribed from the first couple of minutes of the video:
The Tudors lived in an extremely violent time in British history, and they used violence to maintain the pecking order of the day. Rich men would beat up poor men, titled men would beat up commoners, older men would beat up younger men, but what if you were a man at the very bottom of the pile? Who did you get to pick on? The only place where you were lord & master was in your own home, and after a hard day waiting on his lordship at the castle and being beaten with a stick, the one compensation you had was to knock the living daylights out of your wife.
British society’s attitudes towards women are constantly changing. In the past, violence towards women wasn’t just approved, it was even endorsed. Did you know, the Romans were actually allowed to kill their wives just for drinking alcohol? And the Anglo Saxons used to cut off their wives noses and ears for committing adultery.
And the sixth century Christian church told women that getting a thrashing from their man was actually good for them because a woman’s ability to endure violence was a sign of a virtuous wife and a good Christian. So all you had to do was to get beaten up by your husband, not complain about it, and you could go to heaven.
Women didn’t get much better treatment from the state either. When Henry II came to power in 1154, he created for the first time ever a formal legal system for Britain. The Common Law was written for the people, stating that legally a man’s wife was his possession. Men had the right to beat their wives, so long as they did it what was called “moderately” and “reasonably”, which actually meant that basically you could do anything you wanted to her, as long as you didn’t murder her—that was a crime.
And if a woman complained about this state of affairs, she didn’t get very far…
According to Wikipedia, the device was in use in the U.K. as late as 1856. Here’s an especially nasty looking version from Germany, circa 1550-1800. I get the distinct impression certain politicians would like to return to those old ways.