Foreward by Guy M. Wilson, Master of the Armouries, H.M. Tower of London (Ret.) and Director, Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds (Ret.). Introduction by Her Grace The Duchess of Northumberland. Preface by Angie Rosenbruch Hammer, Director, Rosenbruch World Wildlife Heritage Museum. Photography by Peter Beard, G. Allan Brown, and Douglas Sandberg.
No object has had a greater impact on world history over the past 650 years than the firearm, and a surprising number of women have been keen on the subject: as shooters, hunters, collectors, engravers, and even gunmakers. Few objects can rival the finest firearms in elegance, artistry, and mechanical fascination – each areas that have appeal to women, as well as to the seemingly more traditional clientele – men.
Drawing on his unique background and studies made in authoring a veritable library of over thirty-five books to date (beginning in 1961), the author's comprehensive approach begins with Artemis and Diana, goddesses of hunting, and evolves all the way up through modern times. No stone is left unturned as the captivating history of women and arms is presented in one of the most beautiful books ever published on any subject. From Queen Elizabeth I through her contemporary descendant, Queen Elizabeth II, the numbers of aristocratic arms enthusiasts, particularly shooters, have been impressive.
Among those regal personages: Russia's Empresses Elizabeth and Catherine the Great, France's Marie Antoinette, and Great Britain's Duchess of Devonshire. In the New World, Thomas Jefferson's matched pair of Queen Anne-style flintlock pistols were made by London gunmaker Mary Dealtry. Every American grade school student has heard of Molly Pitcher, Revolutionary War heroine. Pioneer American women took bold steps to defend home and hearth, and their courage first earned them the right to vote in Western states, where hardiness and self-reliance were taken for granted.
As Jefferson himself admonished: "[The gun gives] boldness, enterprise, and independence to the mind." For decades the major shareholders of the world's two foremost gunmakers were the widows of the founders: Mrs. Samuel Colt and Mrs. Oliver F. Winchester. Many women were comfortable with firearms in pioneer America, and among the world's most famous women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was Annie Oakley – Little Sure Shot. For years the major shareholder of today's foremost gunmaker, Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., was a woman.
Turning back the clock to the time of Joan of Arc, women have not only suffered the agony of war, but have played a vital role in supporting conflicts. It is not only in modern times that they have been in the front lines. The key position of women in the military is best exemplified today by the Israeli Army. But in numerous past conflicts, women have played a role – sometimes in the guise of men, without their comrades knowing that women were present. Increasingly there are female fighter pilots and cadets at West Point and at all the U.S. service academies. The 2001-2002 war in Afghanistan saw Northern Alliance women trained to fire AK-47s, some even shooting their Taliban tormenters.
Expanding on a long tradition, in the post-World War II period millions of women and girls gravitated to sport shooting, including trap, skeet, and sporting clays, rifle and pistol target competitions, and the harvesting of game birds and even the dangerous big game of Africa. As evidenced in the writings of Ernest Hemingway, Robert Ruark, and Isak Dinesen, big game hunting in Africa was a favorite pursuit of many society women from Europe and the United States. Celebrity women keen on shooting sports, range from Jean Harlow and Rocky (Mrs. Gary) Cooper to Cybill Shepherd, Whoopi Goldberg, Joan Rivers, Naomi Campbell, and, recently, Madonna. The barely seventeen-year-old Kim Rhode won a gold medal in Olympic trap shooting (1996), and regularly beats men at a game they think is theirs! Twenty-one-year-old Alisha Rosenbruch has hunted around the world, and ranks as one of America's foremost hunting guides – both she and her clients have taken several world-record dangerous big game.
Following publication of the book, a traveling exhibition based on women and firearms will commence at the Rosenbruch World Wildlife Heritage Museum, St. George, Utah. Among the participating institutions are the Frazier Historical Arms Museum and the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds (Yorks., U.K.) Numerous artifacts will depict and document a captivating subject never before examined in such exhaustive detail.
Silk and Steel joins the author's set of books on the History of Firearms theme, which commenced in 1979 with The Colt Heritage, and was joined by such later titles as Colt: An American Legend, Winchester: An American Legend, The Peacemakers, Steel Canvas, Ruger & His Guns, Buffalo Bill's Wild West (with Greg Martin), and The World of Beretta. Silk and Steel is composed of more than 300 color plates with spectacular new collages by Peter Beard. The bibliography lists a myriad of works of reference, some dating back centuries, and is accompanied by a detailed index. 318pp.
Introduction by Her Grace the Duchess of Northumberland
Foreword by Guy M. Wilson, Master of the Armouries, HM Tower of London (ret.)
Preface by Angie Rosenbruch-Hammer, Director, Rosenbruch Wildlife Heritage Museum
I: Aristocratic Shooters and Collectors from Queen Elizabeth I to Queen Elizabeth II
II: Women at War
III: America's Unique Firearms Experience
IV: Lady Gunmakers and Engravers, Collectors, and Antiquarians
V: Annie Oakley – Shooting's Heroine: "A Little Lady Made of Steel Wires"
VI: Wild West Shows and Exhibition Shooters
VII: The Sporting Tradition
VIII: Target Shooting – Precise Science and Demanding Sport
IX: The World of Make-Believe
X: Women at Arms: Today and Tomorrow
Bibliography and Suggested Reading