Fact #5

In 1851, Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery opened a fencing and boxing academy in Baltimore. His purpose was to train young men to defend themselves against one of the most violent and notorious gangs of America (at the time), the Plug Uglies. He spent some time as a soldier of fortune before returning to the United States in 1861. He then returned to teaching fencing, pugilism and other forms of self defense at the several salle d’armes that he opened across the country –in San Francisco, Oakland, New York, and Chicago.

 At some point long before it was considered proper, Monstery began taking on female students in addition to his male students and was later quoted as having stated that

“Ladies as fencers are superior to gentlemen in many respects. They surpass the male pupils in quickness, in determination, and the peculiar kind of endurance and nerve-forces required.”  (“Maids of Muscle,” Weekly Inter Ocean, Nov. 30, 1886, 5

He claimed to teach his female pupils in exactly the same manner as his male pupils. With one exception. In addition to fencing and pugilism, the ladies received special training in how to use their parasol as a weapon of defense. Rather than use the parasol as a club, Monstery instructed his pupils to thrust it as though it were a bayonet. In 1886 Monstery even organized an exhibition of the talents of his female fencing and pugilist students in Chicago. 

(Miller, Ben. Self-Defense for Gentlemen and Ladies, by Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, Blue Snake Books, 2015, pp. 15-27)

There are accounts of women prize-fighters at least as far back as the 17th century, but the end of the 18th century is when it truly began to become socially acceptable (to a degree).

This history inspired the pugilism aspect of Preston Baker’s backstory and the idea that he would teach the women of Lupine Valley Ranch to defend themselves not only with firearms, but with their fists. Preston Baker is the hero of Shoot at the Sunset, the fifth novel in my Chaparral Hearts series.


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