If she floats then she is not a witch like we had thought

In the old Priory Church of Leominster*, Herefordshire you wil find one of the last surviving English ducking stools. It was last used in 1809 for one Jenny Pipes, accused of being a “nag” and a “scold.” The stool would be suspended over a body of water into which the prisoner was dunked. Generally reserved for nuisance women, the Leominster stool was also a tool for the public humiliation of men, particularly dishonest traders.

Accompanying the stool is a notice that asks visitors to say a “prayer of reconciliation.” Some of the good folk of Leominster, it seems, are ashamed of the stool and are a tad nervous that it stands so prominently in the church.

The US inherited the English common law offense of being a scold. In 1971, a New Jersey woman (for only women can be scolds) was charged with being a scold after an argument with two men over a parked car. The New Jersey Superior Court threw out the charge.

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*Pronounced Lem-ster. The wife and I stayed in a lovely youth hostel next to the Priory.

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3 thoughts on “If she floats then she is not a witch like we had thought

  1. Now there’s one to remember the next time a client needs a complaint filed. For example:

    First Cause of Action: Breach of Contract
    . . . .
    Second Cause of Action: Breach of Implied Warranty
    . . . .
    Third Cause of Action: Unjust Enrichment
    . . . .
    Fourth Cause of Action: Being a Scold

    (Just to make sure to cover all bases.) Of course, one needs to make sure to plead all the elements of being a scold: (1) insuferable; (2) nagging; (3) wench; (4) who has scolded as evidenced by (a), (b), and (c). . . .

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  2. I’d have to check whether it is in Utah’s common law, but I highly doubt it. You’d have to look at older jurisdictions, like New Jersey, as you pointed out. Besides Allison wouldn’t fit the bill! She doesn’t meet any of the required elements.

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