What Self-Defense Techniques Did Women Use in the Early 1900s?

In the early years of the 20th century, women began to fight back against "mashers," a slang term used to describe the lecherous or predatory men of the era. Women of all ages were prepared for unwanted touching, untoward comments, or incivility of any kind. An eight-inch (20-cm) long hatpin, typically used by women to keep elaborate hats in place, was ideal for making a point during an assault. A parasol or umbrella also came in handy for women who began to enjoy more freedom outside the home, such as taking public transportation alone, or walking at night without an escort.

Hear them roar:

  • It was a liberating time for women. A man no longer "called" at a woman’s home, courting her in the parlor under the close eye of her parents. She was free to be taken to a show or a dance hall.

  • Suffragists of the time rejected the notion that unchaperoned women should dress as modestly as possible in order to avoid unwanted attention.

  • In 1910, Chicago’s city council tried to ban hatpins longer than nine inches (23 cm), threatening arrest and a fine. The response from female activists: "No man has a right to tell me how I shall dress and what I shall wear."

More Info: Chicago Tribune

Discussion Comments


Now they can take their safety into the their own hands even more seriously with a firearms defense course rather than having to rely on a hatpin against a violent attacker who may after all be carrying a knife or worse.

By the way, women make up somewhere around half of all humanity, so women's safety is actually about human safety and therefore in everyone's best interest without having to alienate half the population.

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