The fact that women in current times are treated much better than women in the Middle Ages is something many people overlook. During the Middle Ages, women were forced to endure some pretty outrageous and humiliating things.
Back in those days, women who did small things like gossip or even disagree with their husbands would be subject to cruel punishment. One form of punishment, in particular, that was quite commonly used was known as the Scold’s bridle. Even from the name, it sounds awful, doesn’t it? The name does it no ‘justice,’ it is much worse than it sounds.
While the origins of this device are not set in stone, it is thought to have originated in Europe sometime during the middle ages. It was used as part of the penal system. It was made of iron and looked something like a muzzle or cage, and styles varied from place to place. It was wrapped around a woman’s face like a mask and a small piece of iron known as the ‘bridle bit’ was placed inside her mouth to prevent her from speaking while it was on.
In some cases, the ‘bridle bit’ even had spikes on it so that her tongue would be punctured if she even attempted to speak. Once attached to the woman’s face, a leash would also be attached to the mask and then the woman would be paraded around town for all to see. Sometimes the husband or man walking the woman would even go so far as to encourage those passing by to spit on her or insult her. Disgusting and disturbing, right?
The idea of women speaking publicly, be it protesting, nagging, gossiping or anything of the sort was seen as such a threat that things like this was the ‘answer.’ Some women were even beaten with these attached to their faces causing severe damage to their mouths and so forth. Their tongues were seen as serious weapons and they were forced into line one way or another, usually by means of humiliation.
The past is littered with torture devices like this one and many that are much worse. My heart truly hurts for the women of the past and all that they had to endure. While the Scold’s Bridle could occasionally be used on man, women seemed to get the bad side of most things in regards to this.
Image via Daily Geek Show