As Cotton confiscated lands from the Wardwell estate and bankrupted them with heavy fines for non-attendance of Sabbath, Lydia managed to muster strength, a true testimony to her faith. Several friends of the light were hanged or tortured: ears severed, tongues and body parts bored and branded with hot irons. Those sentenced to jail were often denied food and water.
Lydia was present in Dover, N.H., when three women who had refused to attend church were stripped naked to the waist, tied to a cart and paraded around several local towns in the depths of winter. While the public flogging was administered, the Rev. Rayner “stood and looked and laughed at it.”
Eliakim did not shy away from verbalizing his two cents on the matter. After calling the reverend a brute, back in stocks he went.
Lydia was also pursued by the church to answer for her absence. By the time she was summoned for “separating from the church and teaching false doctrine,” she well understood her fate with church elders. But surely her exhibitionist act was barely imaginable to the pious Puritan elite. She, being “a chaste and tender woman of exemplary modesty,” must have jolted quite a reaction from the locals.
In the court records of Salem, her sentence was noted as follows:
“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 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.”