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White folks got whipped too

Updated: Feb 3, 2019

When we think of whipping in Colonial times, most of us would envision slaves being whipped by their masters. This wasn't always the case, however. Whipping goes back to ancient times as a punishment for all types of people.

For example, while researching the Knowlton family of Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, I came across a story about an Ipswich woman named Elizabeth Perkins, the wife of Luke Perkins. In 1681, she was charged with speaking "most opprobrious and scandalous words of an high nature against Mr. Cobbitt and her husband's natural parents, and others of his relations".

To set an example, the Puritan court ordered her to be "severely whipped on her naked body, and to stand or sit the next Lecture day in some open place in the public meeting house at Ipswich, and when the Court shall direct, the whole time of the service with a paper pinned to her head, written in capital letters ''FOR REPROACHING MINISTER, PARENTS AND RELATIONS'".

Source: Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1905, p. 285.



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