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Bethlehem, Pa., September 14, 2006—Sandy Bardsley, assistant professor of history at Moravian College, recently authored Venomous Tongues: Speech and Gender in Medieval England that examines how women became associated with deviant or disruptive speech during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The book was written for the Middle Ages Series, and was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. It is available on Amazon.com.
Bardsley emphasizes how powerful the spoken word was in a society where few people were schooled and employs literature and works of art together with the law to depict the feminization of moral failings like lying, gossiping, and quarrelling with others. She demonstrates how legal charges and punishments for such crimes spanned all social classes. The text concludes with a discussion addressing how the association of gossip and other forms of immoral speech have affected the perception of women for centuries.
Venomous Tongues particularly focuses on scolding, a crime that was judged to be committed only by women. The offense was interpreted differently by local governments, leading to prosecutions through to the beginning of the nineteenth century. In general, scolds were women who spoke in a manner considered to be detrimental to the well-being of their husbands and of the community at large. A typical punishment for scolds was a turn in the dunking stool – a chair designed so that its occupant could be strapped in to receive a dunking in cold water.
Bardsley interests are medieval, early modern, and women’s history. She is currently completing a general overview of medieval women for Greenwood Press’s series on Women’s Roles through History. She has previously published articles in Past and Present and several essay collections. She earned the B.A. from University of Otago (New Zealand), the M.A. and Ph.D. from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Moravian College is a private, coeducational, selective liberal arts college located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Tracing its founding to 1742, it is recognized as America's sixth-oldest college. For more information call (610) 861-1491 or visit the web site at www.moravian.edu.