By JL33

“The Rise of the Jujitsu-Suffragettes: Martial Arts in fin-de-siècle Great Britain”

Click here to contact the organisers and/or to book your place for this fascinating lecture on the real secret society of suffragette bodyguards who inspired the Suffrajitsu trilogy!

When?  6.30 – 8.00 p.m., May 19th, 2016

Where? Asia House, Library, 63 New Cavendish Street, London, W1G 7LP

How much? Admission: £8

What’s it about? The lecture will explore the blossoming of martial arts in Great Britain at the turn of the 20th century, investigating the Victorian obsession for self-defence, the appeal of the ‘exotic East’, and gender as a social and cultural construct.

Starting with the mid-Victorian garotting panics, Dr Godfrey will show how a fear of violent street crime was entangled with a fascination with Indian thuggee and how in response, civilians manufactured gruesome weapons.

By the end of the 19th century, the use of violent forms of self-defence had become unfashionable and Japanese martial arts were considered to be the ideal, minimally aggressive way to fend off attackers. Experts from Japan taught politicians, the public and police alike the art of jujitsu and women sensationally took up jujitsu in the campaign for women’s suffrage.

A century later, martial arts with an Edwardian twist are again in vogue.

 Lecturer: Emelyne GodfreyEmy Godfrey

Dr Godfrey is a writer and researcher specialising in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. She is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement and has been interviewed by the BBC on numerous occasions. Author of Masculinity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature (2010), and Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society (2012), her latest work Utopias and Dystopias in the Fiction of H.G. Wells and William Morris will be available in September 2016. Dr Godfrey is currently working on a book on the suffragettes.

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“The World We Live In: Self-Defence” – some words of wisdom from suffragette martial arts trainer Edith Garrud

The following article was first published in Votes for Women, the newspaper of the Women’s Social and Political Union, during March of 1910. At that time, Edith Garrud (right, above) had been running her “Suffragettes Self Defence Club”, which was advertised in Votes for Women, since at least December of the previous year. The club was based at Leighton Lodge in Edwardes Square, Kensington, a facility which also included a number of studios for classes in sculpture, painting and voice. The Suffragette self defence classes started at 7.00 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday evening and cost 5s, 6d per month.

Click on the article to read it at full size:

The World We Live In

Eight months after this article was written, the intensity of the “suffrage question” was dramatically boosted when a large but ostensibly peaceful suffragette rally in central London escalated into the violent confrontation that became known as the Black Friday riot. That event forced the urgency and evolution of Mrs. Garrud’s training and by 1912 her Votes for Women advertisements read:

Ju-Jutsu (self-defence) for Suffragettes, private or class lessons daily, 10.30 to 7.30; special terms to W. S. P. U. members; Sunday class by arrangement; Boxing and Fencing by specialists. — Edith Garrud, 9, Argyll Place, Regent Street

By 1913 – in response to the Cat and Mouse Act, which allowed hunger-striking suffragette prisoners to be released and then re-arrested once they had recovered their health – Mrs. Garrud was training the secret Bodyguard Society, A.K.A. the Amazons, in preparation for street-fighting with the police.

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“The Latest Drawing-Room Craze: Ladies Practicing the Japanese Art of Jujitsu”

Latest Drawing-Room Craze

During the very early 20th century, it became fashionable for London ladies to host “jujitsu parties” in their parlors, often hiring expert instructors such as Yukio Tani to offer basic instruction in the Japanese art of unarmed combat. Women responding to invitation cards with the word “wrestling” discreetly printed in one corner would arrive to find the drawing-room furniture shifted away and large mats rolled out across the carpet. Donning uwagi (tough, short-sleeved linen jackets) and brightly-colored sashes, they would proceed to practice the throws, grips and counters that comprised the “Art of Yielding” …

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An Exhibition of Ju-Jitsu at Aldershot: A Lady Throws a Man (The Graphic – Saturday, 08 April 1905)

Uyenishi pupil at Aldershot

Ju-jitsu or the Japanese scientific wrestling, now being taught by a Japanese professor, Professor Uyenishi, of Seibouhan, Japan, to the Aldershot Gymnastic Staff, formed, perhaps, the greatest attraction at the annual gathering of the public schools at Aldershot on Friday last. The wrestling display was given after the boxing championships at the Gymnasium, Queen’s Avenue. One of the professor’s lady pupils from London more than once triumphantly floored her male opponent. Those who witnessed the exhibition came away with the conviction that the Japanese system of training wrestlers will long hold the field against all comers. Our photograph is by Charles Knight, Aldershot.

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New guest reviews of “The Pale Blue Ribbon” and “The Isle of Dogs” is pleased to present these two guest reviews of the Kindle Worlds stories The Pale Blue Ribbon and The Isle of Dogs, reviewed by Val Brown, author of the Toupie Lowther – her life website.

Click on the cover images below to visit the Kindle Worlds sales pages for each story!

PBR cover

THE PALE BLUE RIBBON  by John Longenbaugh

A new, sparkling novella that opens up into an upper-class  time frame wherein the young sportswoman  “Miss Toupie”  innocently falls in love with a charming young man. They become engaged to be married, but her engagement ring is villainously stolen. Sadly the charming young man rapidly  shows an unadmirable side to his character: to her amazement he declines to seek out the villain, declaring that the ring was of little value and refusing to contact the police!

However,  “Miss Toupie” is made of mightier stuff and she decides to turn detective and search for the mugger herself. Needing to know how  to defend herself if needed, she prudently enrolls at the famous  “Macpherson’s Gymnasium and School of Arms” – Fencing for Gentlemen”. Quickly becoming skilled to an extent that amazes the great MacPherson, she sets off fearlessly into deepest east end London, locates her villain and finally discovers  the terrible  truth …

Hovering  around the  reality of the real-life Toupie Lowther – who was, indeed, a noted sportswoman with both blade and racket – the  author of this novella successfully merges her real life  character into a thoughtful,  vigourous and likeable  heroine.  Polished and dramatic, this a great new read.

Isle of Dogs cover small

THE ISLE OF DOGS by Michael Lussier

A new novella that will grip your imagination, The Isle of Dogs features the amazing all-fighting, all-women battalion of bodyguards – known widely as “Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons” – in a mystery tale of blackmail, villainy and kidnapping.

Shocked by the sudden suicide of a former Amazon, the Bartitsu babes search out and uncover the evil “Grex Canum“;  a strangely secretive sodality with  grim headquarters in a public house – the Anne Boleyn – situated on the aptly named Isle of Dogs in east London.

The fighting Amazons arrive on a dark night, primed and battle ready for the assault on the Anne Boleyn. They are led by Miss Persephone Wright (always known as Persi) – star of the graphic novel Suffrajitsu and a skilled champion with foot, fist and her deadly malacca fighting-stick. The Amazon Army  soon attacks and holds the first and second floors of the Anne Boleyn, and finally Persi, along with Katie Brumbach the muscular heavyweight wrestler and the swordswoman Toupie Lowther – readily armed with her holstered and  loaded Bisley Colt (and recently prey to the blackmailing Grex Canum herself) – fight their way up to the secret top floor, finally  bursting into  the black heart of the Grex Canum.

A good read that will keep the reader entranced by the action, The Isle of Dogs is smoothly presented with a fine unravelling of dramatic action.  The incorporation of real life Amazons, trained in the application of the art of Bartitsu and fearful of no brutal opposition adds style as well as imagination to this well thought out and captivating novella.

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Why Persephone Wright rejects the “White Feather” campaign

White Feather

In the third book of the Suffrajitsu trilogy, Christabel Pankhurst is shown encouraging the women of England to hand white feathers to “every man you see who is not in uniform”.  What was the meaning of this campaign, and why does Persephone Wright reject it?

In real history, the “White Feather” campaign was initiated during August of 1914 by Admiral Charles Fitzgerald and the author Mary Augusta Ward.  Within the context of nationalistic fervor at the outbreak of the War, their plan was simple; in order to reduce “malingering”, which was the then-current term for avoiding military service, women would hand symbols of cowardice to young men in civilian clothes, with the object of humiliating them into joining the Army.

Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, who had by then suspended their “Votes for Women” campaign and thrown their efforts into supporting the government for the duration of the war effort, became enthusiastic proponents of conscription. Christabel went further, advocating internment for all members of “enemy races” in England. There is, however, very slight actual evidence linking either of them to the White Feather campaign, other than a paragraph in Sylvia Pankhurst’s 1931 suffragette memoir which conflated her mother’s and sister’s followers with that campaign.

Given that Sylvia had been bitterly estranged from her family, it seems not unlikely that this assertion was either vindictive or honestly mistaken; detailed archive searches have revealed no direct correlation between the WSPU and the White Feather Brigade.

It’s impossible to judge how effective the campaign actually was, but it quickly became highly controversial.  Notably, members of the “Order of the White Feather” were criticized for indiscriminately targeting any man who was out of uniform, including those who were engaged in crucial public service occupations and those who had been honorably discharged from the Army due to injury or illness.  The government responded by creating various lapel badges, including the “King and Country” and “Silver War” badges, to indicate that the wearer was not a malingerer.

White Feather 2

Compounding the controversy, soldiers who were “at home” (on leave from active service) were also frequently handed white feathers if they chose not to wear their uniforms while in public.  One such was Private Ernest Atkins who was on leave from the Western Front and who was presented with a white feather by a girl sitting behind him on a tram. He responded by slapping her with his pay book, saying: “Certainly I’ll take your feather back to the boys at Passchendaele. I’m in civvies because people think my uniform might be lousy, but if I had it on I wouldn’t be half as lousy as you.”

As the War dragged on and especially as news of the horrific conditions faced by soldiers filtered back to England, the White Feather campaign began to lose popular support.

Although the campaign was briefly revived during the Second World War, the effort was by then widely perceived to be in infamously bad taste.

In the fictional universe of Suffrajitsu, protagonist Persephone Wright rejects Christabel’s encouragement to support the White Feather campaign on ethical grounds, stating that “A man who’s been shamed into service isn’t a volunteer at all”.  This is particularly significant in that Persephone had previously been among the most ardent supporters of Christabel’s “Votes for Women” movement during the pre-War period.



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Toupie Lowther referees a women’s fencing match (1899)


In the Suffrajitsu trilogy, May “Toupie” Lowther serves as Emmeline Pankhurst’s chauffeur and getaway driver, as well as the second-in-command of the clandestine Amazon bodyguard team.  She also appears as the protagonist in the short story The Pale Blue Ribbon and as a major supporting character in the novella The Isle of Dogs.

In reality, Toupie was a champion tennis player and fencer who was also a proficient weightlifter, jiujitsu practitioner and driver of both cars and motorcycles.  In this illustration, she referees a fencing match between two young women at MacPherson’s fencing school.

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Edith Garrud’s role in the Suffrajitsu stories

Edith Garrud (uppermost) demonstrates a jiujitsu armlock on one of her suffragette students.

Several Suffrajitsu reviewers have asked why Edith Garrud, who was the real-life jiujitsu instructor of the suffragette Bodyguards, seems to have been downplayed in the graphic novels.  Can you comment?

Tony Wolf: First of all, I should say that I’ve been learning about Edith Garrud’s life and martial arts activities for the past decade.  In recent years I’ve written a number of articles about her, contributed to mainstream newspaper, magazine, TV and radio profiles on her life and even wrote her biography.

Edith’s role and position in the Suffrajitsu series are mostly due to the fact that I prioritized the relationship between Persephone Wright and her uncle Edward, who was the founder of Bartitsu and the owner/manager of the Bartitsu Club. Their relationship had actually been established long before I started writing the Suffrajitsu stories, during an ongoing world-building conversation with other Foreworld Saga writers including Mark Teppo and Neal Stephenson.

Given that Persi was Edward’s niece and protégée, it made sense to turn the Bartitsu Club into the Amazons’ headquarters and to position Bartitsu as their fighting style.  That choice also offered a much wider scope for the fight scenes, in that Bartitsu actually included kickboxing and stick fighting as well as jiujitsu training.

Edith Garrud
Above: Edith Garrud training Amazon Judith Lee in the finer points of the womanly art of self defense.

So what happened to Edith Garrud?

She’s right there doing exactly what she did in real life – teaching the Amazons jiujitsu.  She makes a cameo appearance training Judith Lee in Issue #1 and then Persephone lists her along with two other real-life suffragettes, Flora Drummond and Gert Harding, who will take care of things in London while the Amazons try to rescue Christabel Pankhurst in Austria.  Persi also later refers to Edith’s own security team, the Palladium Irregulars, who will escort Christabel back to London after the rescue.

Who were the Palladium Irregulars?

In real history, Edith taught a women-only self-defense class at the Palladium Academy, which was a primarily a dance school.  Those classes were probably attended by suffragettes and may well have formed the early nucleus of the Bodyguard’s training, but we don’t know for sure.

The Palladium Irregulars are our fictional elaboration of that idea.  In the world of Suffrajitsu, they serve as a sort of reserve unit that can be called on to reinforce the Amazons in times of crisis.

But why isn’t Edith part of the Amazon team?

I should mention that, historically, Edith wasn’t actually a member of the team.  She specifically served as their jiujitsu instructor, rather than as a bodyguard herself.

That said, she was originally part of my fictional Amazon team, along with several other amazing Edwardian-era women who sadly don’t appear in the published version of the story. As I was writing the first issue, it became obvious that there were just too many Amazon characters to do justice to in the amount of space I had to work with.

The commission from Jet City Comics was for a trilogy of 24-page stories.  The requirements of writing an action/adventure storyline within those strict limits – only so many pages per issue and panels per page – meant that there wasn’t space to include many people I’d been hoping to pay homage to.  So, with a heavy heart, I had to remove and merge characters until the team was down to a workable size that offered a diversity of viewpoints, while keeping the focus on Persi as the main protagonist.

Given that one of my priorities was to shine a light on some lesser-known figures such as Flossie Le Mar, Toupie Lowther and “Miss Sanderson“, I was OK with Edith’s eventual role and position in the graphic novel.  I can understand that some readers still wanted to see more of her, though.  I’d encourage them to read the biography Edith Garrud: The Suffragette who knew Jujutsu and also the Kindle Worlds Suffrajitsu novella, The Second Story Girl, in which she plays a more prominent role.

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“Suffrajitsu”: How The Suffragettes Fought Back Using Martial Arts (BBC News)

A BBC News article by Camila Ruz & Justin Parkinson.

The film Suffragette, which is due for release, portrays the struggle by British women to win the vote. They were exposed to violence and intimidation as their campaign became more militant. So they taught themselves the martial art of jiu-jitsu.

Edith Garrud was a tiny woman. Measuring 4ft 11in (150cm) in height she appeared no match for the officers of the Metropolitan Police – required to be at least 5ft 10in (178cm) tall at the time. But she had a secret weapon.

In the run-up to World War One, Garrud became a jiu-jitsu instructor to the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), better known as the suffragettes, taking part in an increasingly violent campaign for votes for women.

Sick of the lack of progress, they resorted to civil disobedience, marches and illegal activities including assault and arson.

The struggle in the years before the war became increasingly bitter. Women were arrested and, when they went on hunger strike, were force-fed using rubber tubes. While out on marches, many complained of being manhandled and knocked to the ground. Things took a darker turn after “Black Friday” on 18 November 1910.

Black Friday protest, 1910: Suffragettes were assaulted by police and men in the crowd

A group of around 300 suffragettes met a wall of policemen outside Parliament. Heavily outnumbered, the women were assaulted by both police and male vigilantes in the crowd. Many sustained serious injuries and two women died as a result. More than 100 suffragettes were arrested.

“A lot said they had been groped by the police and male bystanders,” says Elizabeth Crawford, author of The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide. “After that, women didn’t go to these demonstrations unprepared.”

Some started putting cardboard over their ribs for protection. But Garrud was already teaching the WSPU to fight back. Her chosen method was the ancient Japanese martial art of jiu-jitsu. It emphasised using the attacker’s force against them, channelling their momentum and targeting their pressure points.

A suffragette’s guide to self-defence

The first connection between the suffragettes and jiu-jitsu was made at a WSPU meeting. Garrud and her husband William, who ran a martial arts school in London’s Golden Square together, had been booked to attend. But William was ill, so she went alone.

“Edith normally did the demonstrating, while William did the speaking,” says Tony Wolf, writer of Suffrajitsu, a trilogy of graphic novels about this aspect of the suffragette movement. “But the story goes that the WSPU’s leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, encouraged Edith to do the talking for once, which she did.”

Garrud began teaching some of the suffragettes. “At that time it was more about defending themselves against angry hecklers in the audience who got on stage, rather than police,” says Wolf. “There had been several attempted assaults.”

By about 1910 she was regularly running suffragette-only classes and had written for the WSPU’s newspaper, Votes for Women. Her article stressed the suitability of jiu-jitsu for the situation in which the WSPU found itself – that is, having to deal with a larger, more powerful force in the shape of the police and government.

The press noticed. Health and Strength magazine printed a satirical article called “Jiu-jitsuffragettes”. Punch magazine showed a cartoon of Garrud standing alone against several policemen, entitled “The suffragette that knew jiu-jitsu”. The term “suffrajitsu” soon came into common use.

“They wouldn’t have expected in those days that women could respond physically to that kind of action, let alone put up effective resistance,” says Martin Dixon, chairman of the British Jiu-Jitsu Association. “It was an ideal way for them to handle being grabbed while in a crowd situation.”

The Pankhursts agreed and encouraged all suffragettes to learn the martial art. “The police know jiu-jitsu. I advise you to learn jiu-jitsu. Women should practice it as well as men,” said Sylvia Pankhurst, daughter of Emmeline, in a 1913 speech.

As the years went on, confrontations between police and suffragettes became more intense. The so-called Cat and Mouse Act in 1913 allowed hunger-striking prisoners to be released and then re-incarcerated as soon as they had recovered their health.

“The WSPU felt that as Mrs Pankhurst had such a vital role to play as motivator and figurehead for the organisation that she was too important to be recaptured,” says Emelyne Godfrey, author of Femininity, Crime and Self-Defence in Victorian Literature and Society.

She needed protectors so Garrud formed a group called The Bodyguard. It consisted of up to 30 women who undertook “dangerous duties,” explains Godfrey. “Sometimes all they would get would be a phone call and instructions to follow a particular car.”

The Bodyguard, nicknamed “Amazons” by the press, armed themselves with clubs hidden in their dresses.

They came in handy during a famous confrontation known as the “Battle of Glasgow” in early 1914.

The Bodyguard travelled overnight from London by train, their concealed clubs making the journey uncomfortable. A crowd was waiting to see Emmeline Pankhurst speak at St Andrew’s Hall. But police had surrounded it, hoping to catch her.

Pankhurst evaded them on her way in by buying a ticket and pretending to be a spectator. The Bodyguard then got into position, sitting on a semi-circle of chairs behind the speaker’s podium.

Suddenly Pankhurst appeared and started speaking. She did so for half a minute before police tried to storm the stage.

But they became caught on barbed wire hidden in bouquets. “So about 30 suffragettes and 50 police were involved in a brawl on stage in front of 4,000 people for several minutes,” says Wolf.

Eventually police overwhelmed The Bodyguard and Pankhurst was once again arrested. But the difficulty they had in dragging her away showed just how effective her guards had become.

Garrud did not just teach them physical skills. They had also learnt to trick their opponents. In 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst gave a speech from a balcony in Camden Square.

When she emerged from the house in a veil, escorted by members of The Bodyguard, the police swooped in. Despite a fierce fight she was knocked to the ground and dragged away unconscious. But when the police triumphantly unveiled her, they realised she was a decoy. The real Pankhurst had been smuggled out in the commotion.

The emphasis on skill to defeat and outwit a larger opponent was what first impressed Garrud about jiu-jitsu. She came across it when her husband William attended a martial arts exhibition in 1899 and started taking lessons.

Garrud was soon teaching it herself and became one of the first female martial art instructors in the West. In exhibitions, she would wear a red gown and invite a martial arts enthusiast dressed as a policeman to attack her.

“As far as the suffragettes were concerned, she was very much in the right place at the right time,” says Wolf.

“Jiu-jitsu had become something of a society trend, with women hosting jiu-jitsu parties, where they and their friends underwent instruction.”

Garrud and her jiu-jitsu students continued their fight for the vote until a bigger battle engulfed them all. At the outbreak of WW1, the suffragettes concentrated on helping the war effort.

At the end of the war, in 1918, the Representation of the People Act was finally passed. More than eight million women in the UK were given the vote. But women would not get the same voting rights as men until 1928.

As time passed, The Bodyguard and their trainer began to be forgotten. “It was the leaders that wrote the books and set the history,” explains Crawford. The stories of those who helped them were less likely to be recorded.

Edith Garrud does not feature in the new film but one of its stars, Helena Bonham Carter, has paid her own tribute by changing her character’s name from Caroline to Edith in her honour.

She was “an amazing woman” whose fighting method was not about brute force, Bonham Carter has said. “It was about skill.”

Helena Bonham Carter’s character in the film Suffragette is named Edith in homage to Edith Garrud

It was this skill that helped the suffragettes take on powerful opponents. As Garrud recalled in an interview in 1965, a policeman once tried to prevent her from protesting outside Parliament. “Now then, move on, you can’t start causing an obstruction here,” he said. “Excuse me, it is you who are making an obstruction,” she replied, and tossed him over her shoulder.

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