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Fair But Not Frail …

July 2024
1min read

It was bound to happen, once women invaded the sanctuary of maleoriented offices, or unescorted ladies ran the gauntlet of the city streets: the newly liberated woman was accosted, either by some caddish employers or by a rogue out to take her purse or that which is more precious … etc. How to fend all this off? One solution, posed by the New-York Tribune Illustrated Supplement in 1904, was the “innocent hatpin.” One had been designed, the newspaper observed, “that is intended primarily for use as a weapon of defence. It is in reality a stiletto … made of fine steel … as sharp as a needle, and hardened at the end so that it can be used with deadly effect as a dagger. … With this in her hand the nervous woman is ready for the stranger, whatever his intentions.”

There was another solution— jujitsu—which the President himself, Teddy Roosevelt, had mastered that very same year. An authority on “The Marvelous Japanese Art of Defense” noted in 1905 that the craze for learning jujitsu had spread from the drawing rooms of London to Washington and New York, and that even the President’s daughter Alice was reputed to be an expert.

A Dr. Latson of New York taught both jujitsu and a mode of protection —apparently suited to rainy days— that employed the umbrella. The photographs at left of “Dr. Latson’s Method of Self-Defense,” taken by the noted photographer of city life, Percy C. Bryon, in 1906, illustrate these modes for warding off a street bully, fair weather or foul.

Jujitsu seems to have become passé in our own time, but the ladies are learning karate, and they carry Chemical Mace, and sometimes, when they turn around, you find they’re boys anyway.

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