Whether women knitted codes into fabric or used stereotypes of knitting women as a cover, there’s a history between knitting and espionage. When knitters used knitting to encode messages, the message was a form of steganography, a way to hide a message physically (which includes, for example, hiding morse code somewhere on a postcard, or digitally disguising one image within another).
As women gained independence and started walking and traveling alone during the late 1800s and early 1900s, hatpins provided a quick line of defense from the unwanted touches and words of passing men. These lecherous men were known as “mashers,” and considered to be “low-down, cowardly cumberers of the earth,” as a 1904 blurb in the Los Angeles Herald put it. “Any woman with courage and a hatpin can prove it,” the paper added.