Ducking Stool

A ducking stool was not a stool and had nothing to do with ducks. It was a punishment designed to humiliate women who were found to be “common scolds” or to be “disorderly women.” Both categories were women who somehow rebelled against their husband’s authority. Its classic form was a chair for the woman to sit in, tied up to the chair. The chair was attached to the end of a long wooden beam on a pivot, something like a teeter-totter. The woman would be ducked into a pond or stream, which would be in front of a crowd of neighbors and would have been humiliating. It could also be fatal, with drownings possible. The ducking stool evolved from the “cucking” stool, which might well be an actual stool, on which the accused would be seated to the derision of the crowd. While the intent was humiliation, the crowd might throw refuse, offal or worse and this too, could be fatal. The tradition is European in origin, but the ducking stool at least, was used in the British colonies in North America. The punishment seems to have last been used around 1800.

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