In 1661, a new meeting house was erected in Newbury, Massachusetts. Men and women were assigned seats in accordance with their social rank and condition. Lydia Perkins, wife of Eliakim Wardwell of Hampton NH had become a Quaker, and the Newbury church issued demands that she should appear and give reasons for her withdrawal. Her angry response was to appear naked in the Meeting House to answer their demands.
She was ordered to appear at the Salem court:
“May 5th, 1663. Lydia Wardwell on her presentment for coming naked into Newbury meeting house. The sentence of the court is, that she shall be severely whipt and pay the costs and fees to the marshall of Hampton for bringing her. Costs, ten shillings, fees two shillings and sixpence.”
After the court hearing, Lydia was lugged off by Ipswich lawmen and taken to the tavern near the Meeting House in Ipswich where “amid a large circle of men and boys,” she was tied to a rough post and “lashed to the satisfaction of the crowd of onlookers.” (*The location of this ordinary would probably have been house of Thomas Bishop near the present Ipswich Library. It was succeeded a few years later by Spark’s Tavern).
From the book, Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
“The first law against that “cursed set of heretics” called Quakers, enacted in 1656, forbade any captain to land them. Any individual of that sect was to be committed at once to the House of Correction, to be severely whipped on his or her entrance, and kept constantly at work, and none were suffered to speak with them.
The next year, it was ordered that any Quaker, coming again into this jurisdiction, should have one of his ears cut off; for another offence, he should lose the other ear, and every Quaker woman should be severely whipped; for a third offence, the tongue was to be bored through with a hot iron.
Ere long, sentence of death was ordered and executed in several cases at Boston. It was further decreed in 1661, that ‘any wandering Quakers be apprehended, stripped naked from the middle upward, tied to cart’s-tayle and whipped through the town.'”
4 thoughts on “Lydia Wardwell on her presentment for coming naked into Newbury meeting house”
Wow, this certainly puts any religious prejudice of the present day in the shade. Horrible but interesting.
Every time I read this subject, especially in the air of today’s politics, it scares the heck out of me. Hoping our country can keep this kind of thing from ever happening again. Thanks for the article.
One way to get attention! It’s all in the family
After the session, Lydia was lugged off by Ipswich lawmen and taken to a tavern, the Joseph Baker House. “Amid a large circle of men and boys,” she was tied to a rough post and “lashed to the satisfaction” of the crowd of onlookers. One can only imagine the scene of pathetic prigs sipping ale and leering pitilessly while the constables who whipped her “tore her bosom as she writhed.”