While fashionable walking canes have mostly existed as an accessory for men, walking canes for women did enjoy a brief period of popularity during the 11th century, and then later again during the Victorian era in Europe.
In the 11th century, Marie Antoinette made the shepherd’s crook popular among French women, who also favored slender apple wood sticks as accessories around the same time.
Later, in Victorian England, women often carried short, supple sticks that were less walking canes, and more like very firm whips used to control horses.
History of Walking Canes for Women
While there is no other history of women using walking canes for fashion the way men did, canes have long been used for mobility and support by all genders. After all, injuries and growing older don’t just happen to men.
There are several styles of walking canes that can be used for mobility, but first, let’s look at the types of materials that walking canes for women were made of throughout history.
Historic Cane Materials
While today’s mobility aides are almost certainly made of wood or aluminum, canes have been made with a huge variety of materials in the past. Wood was by far the most popular choice. It combined the strength and durability necessary to support someone who needed assistance walking, and could be decorated with carving, painting, finishing, and embellishing.
While men’s walking sticks could frequently be very plain (especially in the case of the homogenous evening-wear canes), walking canes for women have always leaned towards the decorative.
Wooden Walking Canes
Ash, holly, poplar, cherry, oak, beech, and blackthorn were all very popular wood for canes, but special attention was given to trees that had unique features, such as warty knobs or tortoise-shell coloring. These were coated in a lacquer that made them more weather-resistant, and often the designers used lithographs, or oil and water printings, to decorate the surface during the lacquering process.
Fancy Ladies Canes
Other materials commonly used with the wood in ladies canes included whalebone, rhinoceros’ horn, and ivory. These materials were reserved for the very wealthy, and offered a lady of means a way to flaunt her wealth around town. Walking canes for women were decorated with precious metals and jewels, as well as leather, silk, and even hair.
Modern Womens Walking Canes
These days, carved wood, painted aluminum, or bedazzled leather are much more common methods of decorating canes to make them more fashionable. Lacquered wood is still a frequent material, especially for handles.
Aluminum is far more weather resistant, so it’s very common to see an aluminum shaft with a wood handle, where the wood will be less likely to be disturbed by inclement weather.
Walking Cane Styles and Types
There are several types of womens walking canes that are designed for balance and therapeutic canes for extra support. The shaft of a cane can have a single rubber foot on the bottom, or it can have up to four, such as in the case of quad canes.
While most canes extend upward until they meet the handle, there are two notable exceptions.
- The first is called the C-cane, crook cane, or tourist’s cane, which does not have a separate handle. Instead, the shaft of the cane extends up into a hook shape that the user grips.
- The second is called an offset cane, which has a bent shaft that helps distribute the weight of the user evenly.
Cane Handles Personalize Your Walking Cane
For most standard walking canes, women can choose from a variety of handles to make the cane more personal and fashionable.
Fritz style handle is very popular for a number of reasons.It is an ergonomic handle, meaning it won’t leave your hand in cramps after a long day of use, and it has an elegant scrolling shape that looks very feminine.
Many times, it is used on aluminum or carbon walking canes, which come in a wide variety of colors and patterns.
You can even purchase patterned or colored aluminum canes with ornate hardwood handles, to make the handle more comfortable and elegant while retaining the lightweight ease of aluminum.
If your walking cane is less for mobility, and more for trekking through the outdoors, there are many sports canes, called “trekking poles”, that are available for women.
Adjustable and Collapsible Canes
It’s important to choose a cane that is the right height, especially when you are relying on it to keep you safe in rough terrain.
If your cane is too short or too tall, you run the risk of losing your footing on inclines or in soft ground. This can lead to injuries and weakened joints and bones.
Trekking poles are often adjustable, so that you can be sure to get the perfect height no matter what kind of ground you are traversing. They are also often collapsible, meaning that you can easily pack them in your hiking gear for storage.
Gadget Walking Canes for Women
For a few years in the early 1900s, gadget walking canes were very popular. The most well-known gadget cane was the sword cane, which had a sharpened blade hidden inside the shaft of the cane. This was largely, perhaps even exclusively, designed for men; however, ladies were not without their own unique integrations.
For example, one manufacturer used the hollow area inside a knob handle to make a place to store cosmetics, which the lady about the town could use to discretely touch up her face. Other walking canes included compartments for alcohol and other illegal substances. One way in which gadget canes greatly affected women’s fashions was through the use of smuggling compartments that were used to transport silk worms to Europe, during a time when such a thing was illegal.
Eventually, the popularity of gadget walking canes faded away. Carrying a purse became more normal, so the need for a cane with storage compartments was eliminated. While the main use of a cane is now for health benefits, it’s clear to see that the history of walking canes for women is just as varied as their history as men’s accessories.