Quirky History: The Hatpin as a Lady’s Weapon of Choice

Posted by E.H. Kern

And you thought all this Pride and Prejudice and Zombies lady-fighter talk was just a fiction. Hatpins were originally designed to be used in pairs to fasten a women's hat to her hair. But in the hands of a damsel in distress, a hatpin might just be the deadliest fashion accessory in history.  

At one end, hatpins had an ornamental head to make it look nice and disguise it. At the other end, there was a sharp point to actually do the fastening. As hats grew bigger during the Edwardian era (1901–1910), so did hatpins. Some got to be over 10 inches long.

As more women entered the workforce and mass transit became popular, there were many women moving around unaccompanied in public, 10-inch hatpins and all.  Add to that men who couldn't keep their hands to themselves, and you can probably see where this is going.       

Newspapers articles reported on women using their hatpins to stab their assailant in the arm, slash him in the face, or otherwise threaten to kill him.

The hatpin as a hidden stabbing device was so effective for self-defense that manuals were published on proper usage.  This below manual instructed women who were attacked from behind to reach for their hatpins, spin around, and stab their assailant in the face.

Or how about Mademoiselle Gelas’ self-defense manual from 1903? This covers breaking an attacker's arm, stabbing him in the face, and jabbing a thumb in his eye. 

All this is to say, don't underestimate a well-dressed lady, no matter the era.