A ducking stool was not a stool and had nothing to do with ducks. It was a punishment designed to humiliate women who were found to be “common scolds” or to be “disorderly women.”
Both categories were women who somehow rebelled against their husband’s authority. Its classic form was a sturdy for the woman to sit in. She would have been tied firmly. The chair was attached to the end of a long wooden beam on a pivot, something like a teeter-totter.
The woman would be ducked underwater into a pond or stream, which would be in front of a crowd of neighbors and would have been humiliating. It could also be fatal, with drownings possible.
The ducking stool evolved from the “cucking” stool, which was an actual stool, on which the accused would be seated, and subjected to the derision of the crowd. While the intent was humiliation, the crowd might throw refuse, offal or worse and this too, could be fatal.
The tradition is European in origin, but the ducking stool at least, was used in the British colonies in North America. The punishment seems to have last been used in Britain in 1817.
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