“I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.” – Susan B. Anthony
Over the past few years, I’ve grown to really appreciate the strong women who have come into my life. From my mentor Gila Hayes, I’ve learned to pay attention to the human details that matter. From my friends and assistants Diane Walls and Jennie VanTuyl, I’ve learned to respect the differences between people, and especially the different paths people take on their way to living an armed lifestyle. From women who have organized the classes that I teach — people such as Annette Evans, Jenna Meeks, Karen Berghauser and others — I’ve learned to communicate early and often with people I care about. From students, I’ve learned the value of positive feedback and constructive criticism. From friends and contacts throughout the industry — women such as Lisa Looper, Kitty Richards, Julianna Crowder, and many others — I’ve learned that women can do amazing things when they set their minds to it and don’t let anything stand in their way. These women are an inspiration!
This past weekend in Nebraska, I found myself watching the students with a sense of awe as they improved their skills and gained confidence. It’s an amazing privilege to be trusted to help women grow in such a personal area of their lives, and I feel profound respect that my students have trusted me to help them grow in that way.
Being a defensive handgun instructor isn’t always easy. There are challenges with travel: two weeks in a row this month, I spent an unexpected night in Minneapolis when flights were delayed. There are challenges with weather: it’s often unexpectedly cold, or unexpectedly hot, or unexpectedly wet and rainy. There are challenges with ranges and facilities, conflicting schedules, and the endless balancing act between time and energy that every small business owner feels. Those things can be tough, but they don’t matter — not compared to the deep joy of watching a student gain confidence and competence, improving both her skill and her comfort level with the firearm.
An interviewer asked me this week, “Have you ever had a student call to say she’d defended herself with a firearm after taking your class?” I suppose most instructors privately hope to get a call like that, but I really don’t. The idea that drives me forward isn’t that. It’s the email from a woman who tells me that she learned to be more aware and more alert in my class, so she’s better able to avoid potential victimhood. It’s the one who tells me she used something I taught to stay out of danger, or to get away from trouble before it started. It’s the crime that never happened because the intended victim … wasn’t. It’s the call from a woman who says she’s gained the confidence to jump in and do other things she’s been afraid to do — to face her fears and grow. It’s watching women become competent gun handlers and good shots, and seeing that increased confidence spill over into other areas of their lives. Those are the things that motivate me.
That’s why I do what I do, and that’s what keeps me going. Every woman has a birthright of being strong, confident, and prepared to protect herself and the people she cares about — and I love helping people claim that birthright for themselves.