Scold’s Bridle

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The Scold’s Bridle, also known as “branks,” was a piece of equipment used to punish and oppress women in the fifteen and sixteen hundreds. The bridle was made of an iron frame that encased the head of the victim. At the front of this contraption, a bridle “bit” piece extended into the mouth, holding down the tongue with a spiked plate, rendering the victim mute. In effect, a scold’s bridle was a muzzle used on human females.

Chambers_1908_Branks

What type of crimes deserved such a punishment? Women were bridled for being “gossips,” “scolds,” “riotous,” “troublesome,” and even on suspicion of witchcraft.

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1885 lithograph. Illustrates the use of a scold’s bridle in New England.
18th century scolds bridle
18th Century Scold’s Bridle from the Markisches Museum, Berlin