Women Were Punished for Expressing Themselves

Women Were Punished for Expressing Themselves

During the Medieval era, women who openly showed anger, argued in public, or were otherwise classified as ‘unruly’, were severely punished. In Denmark, Austria, and Germany, the torture device of choice was the Shrew’s Fiddle. It was a contraption that was a cross between a fiddle and the stocks in terms of design. Also known as the ‘neck violin’, the device consisted of three holes; a large one for the neck, and two small ones for the wrists which were fastened in front of the face.

Women who were caught fighting or arguing could be sentenced to a spell in the Shrew’s Fiddle. To enhance the humiliation level, a bell was sometimes attached so townspeople could hear the victim approaching while trapped in the contraption. They were marched through the streets where passers-by would mock and scold them. Another device, called the double fiddle, attached two women face-to-face. They were forced into the fiddle and had to resolve the argument if they wished to get free.

In England, the device of choice was the awful Scold’s Bridle. Once again, it was a torture device used to punish “rude, clamorous women” in Medieval times. It was a gruesomely designed metal mask which made it impossible for the wearer to speak. It was fitted with a bell on top to attract attention and increase humiliation. The custom of wearing the Scold’s Bridle developed in several European countries, including England, in the 16th century and continued until the 19th century when it was used as punishment in workhouses.

Things were only slightly better for women in ancient Greece and Rome. Even freeborn women in Rome, who were classified as citizens, were not allowed to vote, nor could they hold political office. As such, relatively little is known about high-achieving women of the age. To make matters worse, women were not allowed to leave home with a male by their side and when there were visitors to a home, they could not speak or sit down for dinner. Instead, they had to stay in their rooms and not bother the men.

Originally published on History Collection