A women was walking home from work alone one night when a man grabbed her arm and made multiple advances at her. After declining multiple times, Nellie punched him in the face!
Nellie Griffin a telephone operator from Oakland California in the early 20th century told a reporter, “I have waited too long for some bystander to take up the fight for me, but as no one ever volunteered, I was compelled to assert my rights.”
Just like Nellie women have been concerned with their personal safety long before they even had the rights to own and train with firearms! Even so, women were using sharp objects and even their bare fists to defend themselves from predatory men or “mashers” as they might call them in those times.
Hat Pins may have been one of the first and most popularized self defense weapons for women! However, in this time period women could not yet own their own assets, which made it more difficult for women to get their hands on even a hat pin for self defense.
The Hat Pin Peril was a campaign to ban women from using sharp Hat Pins to defend themselves in the 1800’s. In these times most women who used their hat pins to protect themselves where known as great heroes but by 1909 the hatpin was regulated in length and banned.
So it was back to fists for self protection! It’s assumed that these ladies pictured above are a troop of dancers practicing a routine on the rooftop to escape the non air-conditioned auditorium, their punches no more real than WWE SmackDown!
Although it may be just for show, this showcasing of female strength and independence was like a rising tidal wave by the mid 20th century.
In the early 1900’s women began to own their own assets and fast forward to the 1960’s women gained the right to open their own bank account! The climate vastly changing for women gaining independence financially and maritally would lead to new needs and interpretations of self-defense and safety.
By the 80’s married and unmarried women would own both pistols and rifles and become an increasing share of gun sales, firearms training and CCW permit holders. As women are fully established into an era of independence they become masters in self defense, firearms training and martial arts.
Although women have been a driving force of our nations military since WWI and WWII it wasn’t until the 21st century that women’s roles would change. In the early 2010’s women for the first time had the equal right to choose any military occupational specialty such as ground units. The military removed its ban on women serving in combat. In just 100 years time, women went from hatpins to female Marine infantry officers.
Today firearms sales to women are up 40% from 2019, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The threats remain the same, but our ability as women to protect ourselves have changed dramatically! What a step up from Hat Pins!
If you need to learn more, go check out the Well Armed Woman’s breakdown of Women & Guns!