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Women's Museum of California

Preserving the Past, Inspiring the Future

Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self-Defense Movement

Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self-Defense Movement


Event Date:
Saturday, March 24 2018

What is the event about?

Join author Wendy Rouse as she discusses her new book, Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self-Defense Movement.  The book describes the emergence of a women's self-defense movement paralleling the women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s. In this #MeToo movement of the early twentieth century, first-wave feminists sought to raise awareness about the sexual harassment and violence that women faced on the street, at work, and in the home. Advocates of self-defense insisted that all women should learn boxing or jiu-jitsu not only to protect themselves physically but to empower themselves psychologically for the political battles that lay ahead. Women expressed a newfound sense of empowerment through their physical training in self-defense that helped them resist harassment, assault, sexism, and disfranchisement. Self-defense figuratively and literally challenged the power structure that prevented women from exercising their full rights as citizens and human beings.

Tickets are $5

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About the Author:
Wendy L. Rouse is an assistant professor at San Jose State University where she teaches courses in history and teacher preparation. Rouse's scholarly research focuses on the history of women and children in the United States during the Progressive-Era. Her latest book, Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self Defense Movement by NYU Press, examines the political and physical empowerment of women through the practice of boxing and jiu-jitsu in the early twentieth century.
About the Book:
Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women’s Self-Defense Movement. At the turn of the twentieth century, women famously organized to demand greater social and political freedoms like gaining the right to vote. However, few realize that the Progressive Era also witnessed the birth of the women’s self-defense movement. Some women were inspired to take up boxing and jiu-jitsu for very personal reasons that ranged from protecting themselves from attacks by strangers on the street to rejecting gendered notions about feminine weakness and empowering themselves as their own protectors. Perhaps more importantly the discussion surrounding women’s self-defense revealed powerful myths about the source of violence against women opening up conversations about the less visible violence that many women faced in their own homes. Through self-defense training women debunked patriarchal myths about inherent feminine weakness creating a new image of women as powerful and self-reliant.