From Newspaper reports (1900-1914)

“Votes for Women!”

Votes for women cartoon

As suffrage protests became more radical, they proved irresistible targets for satirical cartoonists. Both protesters and police constables were satirized, as in this “Votes for Women!” cartoon from c1909.

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“Sandwina”, the Woman of Steel

Katharina Brumbach (1884-1952), better known by her stage name, “Sandwina”, was born into a family of Austrian circus athletes and strength performers.

As a teenager she received extensive physical training that augmented her natural gifts towards great strength. By the time she made her official debut in her family’s circus act – offering 100 marks to any man in the audience who could defeat her in a wrestling match – she already stood close to six feet tall and weighed in the region of two hundred pounds.

Her stage name was purportedly adopted after she defeated the famous strongman Eugen Sandow in a weightlifting contest during the very early 1900s (“Sandwina” being a feminine variant of “Sandow”). She and her husband, acrobat Max Heymann, developed a double act in which Sandwina played the role of a soldier going through a rifle drill, manipulating Heymann as if he were a rifle.

Sandwina

By 1911 the couple were touring vaudeville and circus circuits throughout the United States and Europe, with Sandwina performing numerous impressive feats of strength including bending iron bars, breaking chains and supporting enormous weights on her shoulders. She became particularly famous in America, where she was seen as an exemplar of several popular cultural trends including eugenics, physical culture and women’s suffrage. Circa 1912 she became the vice-president of a suffrage society within the Barnum and Bailey Circus, although she was quoted as saying that she feared suffrage might “masculinise” women.

Retiring from the circus life, Sandwina and her family opened a popular tavern and restaurant in Ridgeway, New Jersey, where she continued to perform feats of strength for their patrons every Saturday night. She also took a hand in training her son Teddy, who became a prominent professional boxer, during the 1920s and 30s.

A New York Mirror newspaper article of December 15, 1947 recorded an incident in which a “bruiser” had entered Sandwina’s bar, berated everyone in sight and then started aggressively for Max. Under such circumstances, Sandwina – known to all in the neighbourhood as “Mama” – was known to say to her husband, “Papa, open the door …”. She knocked the bruiser out cold with one punch and ejected him from the premises. Apparently, this sort of thing happened often enough that the local cops had developed a customary word of caution for Sandwina the strongwoman:

“Mama, don’t hit him too hard!”

Sandwina, the Woman of Steel appears as a member of the Amazon bodyguard team in the Suffrajitsu graphic novel series.

The Mighty Sandwina, aged 63 years, bends a steel strap into a pretzel.
The Mighty Sandwina, aged 63 years, bends a steel strap into a pretzel.
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“Woman’s Handiest Weapon”: the stiletto hatpin (1904)

From The New York Times, 1904:

The Hatpin Inflicts a Severe Wound and Can Be Got Ready for Action in a Moment

“What shall we do in case we are attacked by some thief or ruffian?” is the question women have asked in every part of the country. The man to whom the question is put will generally answer: “Carry a revolver.” But women dread revolvers. Few women possess the nerve necessary to use a pistol with effect when attacked. Then there is the objection to a revolver in the possession of a woman that she would be averse to suspecting the motive of every man she met and would probably fail to draw the revolver until too late, for fear of making a foolish mistake. What, then, can be provided for her that will be formidable to a foe, yet absolutely safe, so far as she is concerned, and ever ready at hand, whether wanted for use or not?

The answer to the puzzle has been provided by those who make women’s hatpins. A hatpin has been designed that is intended primarily for use as a weapon of defense. It is in reality a stiletto, masquerading as an innocent hatpin. It is made of fine steel, that will bend, but will not break, as sharp as a needle, and hardened at the end so that it can be used with deadly effect as a dagger, and a handle that enables a woman to grasp it for use as a weapon and hold it so that it cannot easily be pulled from her hand.

“When attacked from behind, she grasps a hatpin. Turning quickly, she is able to strike a fatal blow in the face.”

There are two ways of holding this hatpin. It can be held with the thumb pressed against the top or with the button grasped in the palm of the hand. In either way it is a weapon not to be despised. The method of using it to the best advantage when attacked is to aim at the face of the highwayman. A woman armed with one of these stilettos is able to do more damage in a few seconds than a man unarmed. The wicked little blade is so small that it is impossible to grasp it to wrench it away from her, and yet so keen is it that, thrust home by a woman frenzied by fear, it is likely to pierce through any ordinary clothing into a vital part of a highwayman’s anatomy.

There are times in most women’s lives when a suspicious looking character comes into the offing and prudence whispers: “Beware of him.” While most women would shrink under these circumstances from pulling out a revolver, it is an innocent act to put the hand to the hat and draw out one of her stiletto-like hatpins. With this in her hand the nervous woman is ready for the stranger, whatever his Intentions. If he is an honest man he will probably take no notice of the woman’s action. If he is a thief, it is more than probable that he will mark the act and let the woman pass unmolested.

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Defence Against the “Hooligan”: Bartitsu Methods in London (1901)

An article by “S.L.B.” from “The Sketch”, April 10, 1901:

Last year, a very interesting exhibition of self defence was given at St. James’s Hall, and was the subject of prolonged discussion by many of the people present. Mr. Edward Barton-Wright, who gave the demonstration, was honoured with an invitation to repeat it before the Prince of Wales, but he met with a bicycle accident and the exhibition became impossible. It may be that the style of self-defence introduced to public notice would have failed to attract attention by reason of its novelty alone, but Mr. Barton-Wright had not mastered it without the firm intent to give it a fair chance before the public. He proceeded to found a Club at 67b, Shaftesbury Avenue, where physical culture may be studied under Professors of all nationalities, some of the best of the world’s athletes and sportsmen being engaged as instructors. To-day the work is in full swing, stimulated by the uprising of the “hooligan”.

In his early days, Mr. Barton-Wright was an engineer, and his duties took him into strange lands and among ill-disposed people. He had to go slowly, and to learn that the knowledge of boxing under the Queensberry rules, his sole accomplishment then among the arts of self-defence, is of little or no use against men who attack their opponents with feet as well as hands, from below the belt as well as above it, from the back as well as face-to-face, and with bludgeons, life-preservers, knives and other persuasive weapons. The straightforward stroke that, catching the ruffian upon the “point” or “mark”, disables him from further attempts, is of little or no good when it cannot be delivered, and in every city he visited the young engineer found more and more to learn.

Soon he was seized with the bright idea of combining the self-defence of all nations into a system that, when properly acquired, should enable a man to defy anything but firearms or a sudden stab in the dark.

The chief point to bear in mind was that an adequate system of defence must be able to meet any form of attack; the man who endeavours to disable you by kicking you in the stomach is entitled to as much respect and consideration as he who strives to garrote you, or to try the relative resisting powers of a loaded stick and your skull.

The Bartitsu Club, through its Professors, over whom Mr. Barton-Wright keeps an admonishing eye, guarantees you against all danger. In one corner is M. Vigny, the World’s Champion with the single-stick: the Champion who is the acknowledged master of savate trains his pupils in another. He could kill you and twenty like you if he so desired in the interval between breakfast and lunch – but, as a matter of fact, he never does. He leads you gently on with gloves and single-stick, through the mazes of the arts, until, at last, with your trained eye and supple muscles, no unskilled brute force can put you out, literally or metaphorically.

In another part of the Club are more Champions, this time from far Japan, where self-defence is taken far more seriously than here. The Champion Wrestler of Osaka, or one of the shining lights among the trainers for the Tokio police, dressed in the picturesque garb of his corner of the Far East, will teach you once more of how little you know of the muscles that keep you perpendicular, and of the startling effects of sudden leverage properly applied. The Japanese Champions are terribly strong and powerful; at a private rehearsal of their work, given some two months ago on the Alhambra stage, I saw a little Jap. who is about five feet nothing in height and eight stone in weight, do just what he liked with a strong North of England wrestler more than six feet high, broad, muscular and confident. The little one ended by putting his opponent gently on his back, and the big one looked as if he did not know how it was done.

There is no form of grip that the Japanese jujitsu work does not meet and foil, and in Japan a policeman learns the jujitsu wrestling as part of his equipment for active service. One of the Club trainers was professionally engaged to teach the police in Japan before he came to England to serve under Mr. Barton-Wright.

When you have mastered the various branches of the work done at the Club, which includes a system of physical drill taught by another Champion, this time from Switzerland, the world is before you, even though a “Hooligan” be behind you. You are not only safe from attack, you can do just what you like with the attacking party. He is as helpless in your well-trained hands as a railway-engine in the hands of its driver. The “Hooligan” does not understand the principles on which he works; you do, and, if it pleases you to make his machinery ineffective for further assaults upon unoffending citizens, you can do so in a way that cannot be believed until it is seen. No part of South London need have terrors for you; Menilmontant, La Vilette and the shadier side of the Bois are as safe for you in Paris as the Place de l’Opera. I find myself wishing that the Bartitsu Club had been in Shaftesbury Avenue as recently as some five or six years ago, when shortly after midnight the slums of Soho would send forth ruffians at whose approach wise men sought the light.

The work of the Club makes a strong appeal to Englishmen, because they are naturally of an adventurous disposition and have a great aversion to the use of any but natural weapons of defence in the brawls that they are bound to encounter now and again. There is a keen pleasure in being able to turn the tables on a man who tries to assault us suddenly and by means that he relies upon to give him an unfair advantage. I am well assured that a few of Mr. Barton-Wright’s pupils sent into a district infested by “Hooligans” would do more to bring about law and order than a dozen casual arrests followed by committal with hard labour, with or without the “cat”. And there is an element of sport in the Bartitsu method that should appeal to any “Hooligan” with a sense of humour.

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“Two positions of attack”

From Popular Mechanics Magazine, Vol. 10 Issues 1-12:

In one of the women’s fencing schools of Paris instruction in the art of attack and defense with foils has been discontinued and umbrellas instituted.

The first lesson the pupils learn in this up-to-date means of defense from attack on the streets is to baffle the watchfulness of the aggressor by skillful blows. The most simple and at the same time most effective, consists in applying a flat stroke of the umbrella upon his headgear. Surprised by this stroke and perhaps blinded by the rim of the hat, he has not the time nor the presence of mind to seize the umbrella. The lunges which follow such a blow are not only effective, but dangerous. The first is known as the “Hors de Combat” blow. Seizing her umbrella near the handle with one hand and near the point with the other and advancing a step with the body well forward, the point if well directed against the center of the aggressor’s neck will drop him to the ground senseless and probably badly hurt. The same blow aimed at the pit of the stomach will probably send the recipient to the hospital and perhaps cripple him for life.

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Miss Sanderson and the womanly art of parasol self defence

Madame Vigny

Although the woman known as “Miss Sanderson” was a prominent fencer and self defence instructor in Edwardian London, regrettably little is known of her life – including her first name. At some point in the early 1900s she married Pierre Vigny, who had begun his own career in London as the chief instructor at the Bartitsu Club. Miss Sanderson, who continued to use what was presumably her maiden name for professional purposes, became Vigny’s assistant instructor when he opened his own school in Berner’s Street during 1903. By 1908 she was teaching her own unique system of women’s self defence, based on Vigny’s method but concentrating on the use of the umbrella and parasol.

Here follow some excerpts from newspaper reports on her exhibitions:

Then Miss Sanderson came to the attack, and the demonstration showed her to be as capable with the stick as the sword. She passed it from hand to hand so quickly that the eye could scarcely follow the movements, and all the while her blows fell thick and fast. Down slashes, upper cuts, side swings, jabs and thrusts followed in quick succession, and the thought arose, how would a ruffian come off if he attacked this accomplished lady, supposing she had either walking-stick, umbrella, or parasol at the time? In tests, she has faced more than one Hooligan, who was paid to attack her, and each time he has earned his money well.

The contest between the Professor and Madame (Vigny, i.e. Miss Sanderson), which mingled the English art of Fisticuffs with the French Savate, was also intensely interesting, as proving the quickness, endurance and hitting power which can be developed as readily by members of the fair sex, as by those of the male persuasion, provided only that they be suitably trained.

– J. St. A. Jewell, “The Gymnasiums of London: Part X. — Pierre Vigny’s” Health and Strength, May 1904, pages 173-177.

It is certain, after seeing Madame’s performance, that every lady would wish to study the art as, were she acquainted with it, and provided with a hooked umbrella, she could penetrate into the roughest districts, and yet feel sure that any assailant, however formidable, who ventured to molest her, would bitterly regret having done so.

– “Professor Pierre Vigny’s Sixth Great Annual Tournament,” Health and Strength, January 1906, pages 38-39.

The mysterious Miss Sanderson also appears in the Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy, in which she wields her parasol in defence of the leaders of the radical women’s rights movement.

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“Suffragettes and Policemen: Amazons in the Making” (1910)

From the London Daily Mail, 25 August 1910:

A practical test of Suffragette jiujitsu took place the other evening between Mrs. Garrud, an expert in the Japanese art, and a policeman. Mrs. Garrud is one of the organisers of the women athletes’ branch of the Women’s Freedom League, and her object is to make jiu-jitsu an additional weapon of woman’s fight for the vote

The first policeman opponent was not an interrupter at a meeting, nor had he offered a Suffragette any insult, other than a doubt that Mrs. Garrud could toss him over her head.  In explaining how it would be possible for the Suffragettes in future to police their own meetings and forcibly eject any of their one-time lords, Mrs. Garrud had casually remarked that for her part the overthrow of an average policeman would be a simple matter. In no way did the constable resent her expression of opinion, but his doubts were evident. A smile crept over his face as he stood regarding her. “Why,” he said, “you’re only a little dot of a woman.”

“Well., I’m not exactly a giant,” admitted the Suffragette. “If you’re sure you aren’t frightened of getting hurt, I think I’ll throw you.”

Again the big policemau smiled. It was all so very, very foolish. His great red hands played idly about his 43in chest, and then in a moment of vanity he clenched his right fist, so that the muscles of his forearm stood out in heavy lumps.

Mrs. Garrud is 4ft 10 inches in height, and she, too, smiled. “I’m glad you’re not more than thirteen stone,” she murmured.

Then the struggle commenced. As a huge mastiff would bend down upon au insolent kitten, the man swooped on the womau. First he tried for a catch-as-catch-can bodyhold, but the Suffragette eluded his grasp. Their hands met, and the giant tried to pull her to him, but that was the very last thing she intended to allow. Pulling away from him, she ran lightly backwards, with the policemau pressing heavily after her. Desperately he exerted all his strength, striving to push the woman off her balance aud on to the mat. Then, suddenly, the thing happened. In a flash the woman fell flat on her back, with the massive policeman towering above her. Up shot one of her feet to meet his diaphragm. Her little arms strained, and as he pulled against himself the man lost his balance, swirled over her head, turned a somersault in mid-air, and fell heavily on the back of his head. In less than ten seconds the Suffragette had thrown the policeman.

Five minutes later, when he once more condescended to stand upright, the puzzled policeman again carefully regarded Mrs. Garrud. Contemplatively he scratched his head. “If that had happened on the pavement instead of these mats the police force would be one man short at this moment,” he said. “That fall would have cracked my skull.”

Another policeman awaited his turn. Lighter in build than the other, but more alert and more athletic in every way, the second man had the further advantage of a sound knowledge of the secrets of jiu-jitsu. “Now I shall have to do something really decent,” said the Suffragette. ”That last bout was just child’s play. I’ll enjoy this much better.”

For a full minute they played for an opening. At first the man tried for a catch-as-catch-can hold, but the woman was too wary. Just as the policeman’s arms seemed to have locked about her she would slip away, and, clutching his wrists, attempt to pull him after her as she ran backwards to gain the impetus for the stomach fall which proved the first man’s downfall.

At last the man’s superior strength and great advantage in weight commenced to tell. Desperately she tried for a side-hold, and then the end came. Just failing to effect the grip, the woman was at the man’s mercy. High in the air he swung her and then down upon the mat she went. But even as she fell she made for a wristhold, missing it by an inch. Two taps on the floor as a signal that she was defeated and the woman rose smilingly for another bout.

The first position taught by Mrs. Garrud to her Suffragette pupils is the “trip.” After the theory had been carefully explained, the two women gripped each other firmly by the upper arms. They swayed a little, and then Mrs. Garrud pressed her opponent backwards a few steps, but out went the pupil’s foot against her shin, and down went the teacher. Lying as she fell, Mrs. Garrud explained the next positions — how to safeguard the face from being struck when bending over a fallen combatant to pin her to the ground, then how to pin both hands to the ground. This was repeated several times and another new “lock” added, which effectually quieted the instructress.

“I do not often teach more than two new features each day,” said Mrs. Garrud. “They are so apt to confuse them unless they practise very diligently. To master the art thoroughly requires about thirty-six lessons, but, of course, people can become efficient in less than a dozen.” As these combatants retired a girl came forward — it would be neither fair nor sportsmanlike to divulge her identity —who is nearing the completion of her course. Judging from the light-hearted and easy way in which she threw a man over her head half a dozen times, the London police force may well shake in their shoes at the prospect of what the future may hold.

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“Suffragettes and Jiu-jitsu” (1910)

From the Wanganui Chronicle, 9 August 1910, Page 5.

No longer is the annoying male interjector to disturb the tranquility of the peaceful Suffragette at her meetings (says the London “Standard”). A Women Athletes’ Society, the latest adjunct of the Women’s Freedom League, has been organised by Mrs. Garrud, a jiu-jitsu expert, and Miss Kelly, one of the hunger-strikers, who entered a Dundee meeting by way of the fanlights.

Mrs. Garrud is not an inch taller than five feet, but she has already enjoyed the pleasure of throwing a six-foot policeman over her shoulder. “He was a very nice man, and he didn’t mind a bit,” she said. “But there are other men who are not a bit nice, men who are merely silly and a nuisance to others besides themselves. I have already had the pleasure of ejecting one youth from a woman’s franchise meeting, and after we have had our new society in full swing for some months, we hope to have a regular band of jujitsu officers, who will be able to deal with all the male rowdies who dare to bother us. Only to-day I received a letter from the headmistress of a North London girls’ school saying that she desires to enroll all her pupils in our society.”

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“One Man, One Suffragette” (1907)

A 1907 Punch Magazine cartoon offers a satirical training suggestion to those London bobbies whose duties brought them into conflict with radical Suffragettes. The following year, under the tutelage of Edith Garrud, the Suffragettes themselves began training in jiu-jitsu …

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