The hat pin has gone down in history as one of the most surprising, yet practical weapons at a Victorian woman’s disposal. As the amazing lovely hats of the period grew bigger, so did the hat pin, which could be artfully concealed among their ornate decorations. Some were up to thirteen inches long and resembled miniature fencing foils.
Though many view the Victorian period as stuffy and repressed, it was actually a time of great social change. In this era, Women and girls of all ages were under a less watchful eye of their fathers and husbands. They were increasingly free to venture about on errands, trips, and even to take employment. At the same time, this provided the era’s ruffians and ne’er-do-wells with many opportunities to molest an unaccompanied and seemingly defenseless woman.
It must have come as quite a surprise when the first woman pulled out her hat pin and made fine work out of the masher’s face and hands. There are many accounts from that time of women defending themselves, fellow passengers, train conductors, and even cabbies from theft or assault.
Elsa Lancaster, who is best known for her long career in movies beginning with Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and spanning all the way to Murder By Death (1976), was also a celebrated cabaret performer. In the 1950’s, she recorded a wonderful pub song called “Never Go Walking Without Your Hatpin” Follow this link to listen. It has become my new ringtone.
(Apologies – in the first version we gave you an expired link. We’ve fixed it!)
I am strongly in favor of bringing back the hat pin! That’s partly because I love the hats, but also because in these dangerous times, it never hurts to be prepared.
The women of the Victorian Era were looked upon as helpless, but as history always shows, we woman are ingenious and a force to be reckoned with.
Our new novel Professor Ione D. and The Epicurean Incident features Ione and her best friend Emma (portrayed above) defending themselves against some rather uncouth ruffians. The ebook version of this adventure is on sale for only 99 cents through 11/27!