scorecardresearch Skip to main content

New Scarlet Letters

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” is fiction, but based on fact. In Puritan Massachusetts, punishment by Capital Letter Shaming was used for a variety of offenses. Mary Mendame was sentenced to wear AD on her sleeve as a badge of shame for adultery, and Robert Coles was ordered to wear a D around his neck for drunkenness.

These measures were effective, as nobody fools around or gets drunk in Boston anymore. So what we need are new Scarlet Letters to curb annoying social offenders such as:

Con Chapman is the author of “Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges.”


Sage Stossel is an Atlantic contributing editor and author of the children’s book “On the Loose in Boston.’’ Follow her @sagestossel.