Women’s Hats Were Used For More Than Just Fashion in the Late 1800s

Samuel Reason | November 3rd, 2017

Toward the late 1800’s into the early 1900’s, it was a known fact that women began to gain a lot of their independence. When you hear the term hatpin, most of us don’t consider a hatpin to be used as a weapon, but one hundred years ago, it was! The hatpin was designed to be a rapid element of defense for women in hazardous situations. One hundred years ago, when a man attempted to rob or touch a woman in an indecent manner, they were known as “mashers.” These types of men were considered to be low-down and the worst types of men around. The hatpins were also used to secure a woman’s hat down with decorative accessories.

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The hatpin was the perfect hideaway for a weapon needed for a woman in danger. When the hats became more attractive, the hatpins became more prominent with appearance. There were hats which held fake flowers and fruits. Birds and various other small animals also made a hat decorative. Keep in mind that the pins which fastened these types of hats could very well run over ten inches! Imagine how much defense a ten or more-inch pin could supply a woman in high peril! Throughout America, newspapers reported stories of women who protected themselves with their hatpins! There was even a report that one lady prevented a train robbery! As time went on, more women began educating each other on this self-defense mechanism.

There were even self-defense manuals printed! A lot of the news spread accredited to a woman named, Mademoiselle Gelas. This lady advised a lovely mixture of jiu-jitsu. Jiu-jitsu included hatpin stabbing and umbrella work. This was to fend off any unsafe man while walking alone. In the 1900’s, local newspapers weren’t keen on reporting rape cases. In the year 1905, the murder of twenty-four women caused quite the panic over women’s safety. The news reported out in local Chicago newspapers. This prompted an extensive anti-crime campaign, which focused on arresting, as well publishing news of low-down men. After the year 1912, more so in the 1920’s, the hatpin defense mechanism began to grow infrequent. The fear of the sharp pins and the women who exercised them resulted in several hatpin regulations. There were also fewer creations, which protected the tapered ends of the hatpins. As time traveled on, there became other ways for a woman to defend herself. Some of those mechanisms included pepper spray, carrying knives, as well as guns.

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