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Scold's Bridle

Scold's Bridal, Armagh County Museum collectionGossiping women meet their match!

A bizarre form of punishment reserved exclusively for women was the wearing of the iron scold's bridle. Resembling a muzzle or cage for the head it had a padlock at the rear and a projecting spike that would have been held firmly inside the mouth when the bridle was closed.

The use of the bridle was first recorded in Scotland (1567) and the 'scolds' were presumably women whose talk was inappropriate or to use a modern legal term - 'libelous'. There are also records to indicate that part of the punishment could have involved the offender being lead around the town as part of the ritual humiliation.

Why the torture was reserved for women is unclear and in the modern era of political correctness it is perhaps best not to pursue the matter further! However, on a more serious note, references to the scold's bridal being applied at the husbands request raises the whole issue of female punishment throughout the ages and into the present day.

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