Unescorted city women of the early 1900s didn’t have things like pepper spray to defend themselves from sexual predators. But they were crafty. Let’s take Leoti Blaker for example. The young Kansan was touring New York City when she boarded a Fifth Avenue stagecoach at 23rd Street and settled in for the ride. The coach was crowded, and as it was bumping along the road, Blaker noticed a man getting closer and closer to her. He was an elderly, elegantly dressed, and “benevolent-looking” man. Suddenly, the stage jumped, tossing the passengers all over the place and the man got so close to Leoti, he started touching her, hip to hip, shoulder to shoulder. It was then when he lifted his arm and draped it low across her back. But Leoti was ready. She reached for her hatpin (which was almost a foot long) and plunged it into the man’s arm. He let out a cry of pain and left the coach at the next stop.
“He was such a nice-looking old gentleman I was sorry to hurt him,” the badass woman told the New York World. “I’ve heard about Broadway mashers and ‘L’ mashers, but I didn’t know Fifth Avenue had a particular brand of its own… If New York women will tolerate mashing, Kansas girls will not.”
Newspapers all over the country began reporting similar encounters with “mashers,” period slang for predatory men. Recently, Twitter user Jason Poole got his hands on this interesting piece of self-defense history and decided to share it with his followers.