Though Boise in 1911 would be a slow-paced community by modern standards, in one way it was more like a big city than it is today. Most people did not have automobiles at that time and had to interact with others while walking or riding in a streetcar. Having to travel outside the security of an automobile left people at risk of robbery or attack. Clerks at hardware stores, where guns were sold at that time, were surprised by a growing demand for firearms from Boise women. The newly-armed ladies went forth using their handbags, needlework totes, even handmuffs, to conceal snub-nosed revolvers.
A Boise woman making her way home on foot from a club meeting or other diversion had reason to be concerned for her safety as darkness fell. The streets were not well lighted, few policemen were on duty and shady characters could be almost anywhere downtown. Boise was close enough to the rail line that it was washed by the tides of the transcontinental passenger traffic, including fugitives from justice. Even the miners, cowboys and sheepherders who had come to town to spend their pay were sometimes disrespectful to women “when liquor was doing the talking.”
The Idaho Statesman reported on the gun-buying trend in an article which was clearly intended to encourage mal hombres to get out of town. One woman quoted in the article was a steady shot: “I can shoot the spot out of an ace at 20 feet.” She confidently discussed the features of the weapon she wanted to buy with the hardware clerk. Even more unsettling to the criminal element would have been the testimony of another lady. “‘I’ve allowed a strange man to insult me on the streets of the city for the last time,’ said [the] angry woman, ‘and the next time a strange man speaks to me or even approaches me in a suspicious manner along a dark street after this, I won’t take any chances, but shoot quick.’”
The purchases gave food for thought to city leaders as well as police and criminals.