White Horse Tavern


On Tuesday, May 5, 1663, Lidia Wardell was tried, convicted and whipped at the White Horse Tavern in Ipswich, Massachusetts Bay Colony. Imagine Lidia being led to the whipping post nearby, and turning back toward the building where the Court was still in session, and men calling out from inside loud enough for her to hear as she prepared to take the whip on her bare back. I wrote much of Lidia's tale from her point of view, while she was tied to the post. I imagine, as she anticipated each lash, she must have wondered about her decision to act in protest of the Puritan laws, questioned herself, thought about the others who had protested before her; and she must have wondered if she would survive, and how her family, especially her husband and her two small boys, would be affected afterwards. This was the premise I began with when I decided to write The Rose and the Whip, and I could hardly imagine how it would all flush out in the end. So, it was wonderful when I found that the building that once housed the White Horse Tavern still stands today, without the whipping post of course. It was not unusual for taverns to be given over to the Court for regular proceedings; it was more unusual for a woman to be presented for some infraction, and even more rare for a woman to be publicly whipped for her crime(s). Punishments might be carried out in any number of places: the village square where the stocks were usually located, or possibly even outside the meeting house where a whipping post might be found; it was not unusual for a whipping post to be planted outside the taverns where the Courts met so that justice could be swift; and, according to the Cart and Whip Act which was passed on 22 May 1661 and was "designed to be a more effective and at the same time not so obnoxious to the Home Government" (The Quakers in the American Colonies by Rufus M. Jones; Macmillan and Co., 1911), the Constable of any town could order anyone manifesting him or herself as a Quaker to be tied to the back of a horse cart and dragged and whipped from town to town. The building is now a private family dwelling, but, it's pretty cool to be able to stand across the street and gaze upon it, and imagine Lidia being led out of the door and tied to the whipping post near by, and lashed with 20-30 mean stripes . . . and surviving. Read her tale in The Rose and the Whip.

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