From Suffragettes

Jujitsuffragette!

Jujitsuffragette

A member of the secret suffragette Bodyguard society takes down a London bobby in this illustration from the book Bodyguards!: From Gladiators to the Secret Service.

Written by Ed Butts, illustrated by Scott Plumbe and intended for readers aged approximately 9-12, Bodyguards! is an entertaining and informative survey of personal protectors throughout history, including the Praetorian Guard, the Swiss Guard, gunfighters of the Wild West, ’30s Chicago gangsters and many more.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter

Weapons of the Suffragette Bodyguards

A collection of Suffragette bodyguard weapons and tools confiscated by police following the infamous “Battle of Glasgow” brawl, which took place at St. Andrew’s Hall on the evening of March 9th, 1914.

This picture was originally published in the Daily Record and now forms part of a display at the Glasgow People’s Palace museum.

The collection includes include six Indian clubs and five police truncheons (also commonly carried by private citizens for self defence purposes) along with several specialised items:

* top row, third from left: a set of wirecutters

* top row, fifth from left: a “life-preserver” or semi-flexible, weighted bludgeon

* bottom row, third from left: a section of barbed wire, probably part of the barricade that was concealed around the edge of the St. Andrew’s Hall stage; a pistol, probably that which was loaded with blanks and fired to intimidate the police by Scottish suffragette Janie Allen.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter

Suffrajitsu! (March, 1914)

Suffragette vs. bobby cartoon

(Iterations of the following article appeared in many newspapers during mid-late March of 1914.)

It has come at last! The word for which the world has long waited, the word that will immortalise the militants, has made its appearance in the dictionary of dynamic didoes that form such a conspicuous part of the “votes for women” propaganda.

It is “suffrajitsu” and the correct way in which to pronounce it is “suffrajitsoo”.

The equal-suffrage crusaders may not be the authors of this picturesque word, but no-one who has seen them in action would doubt that they are the originators of the particular tactics that called it into being and general use in the land where they operate with most persistence.

It was the Japanese who became the most formidable man-handlers in the world by their manipulation of the pneumogastric nerve and other anatomical tricks; and their system is called jiu-jitsu. But from all accounts, jiu-jitsu is no more effective for the purposes for which it may be used than “suffrajitsu” is for withstanding the rude attacks of guardians of the public peace.

All regularly accredited members of the English militant organisation are required to take a regular course in “suffrajitsu”.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter

“Suffragette Style”

By Lucy Addington (History Wardrobe)

One Edwardian woman who certainly didn’t let fashion hobble her was martial arts expert Edith Garrud. Her ju-jitsu skills made a mockery of would-be muggers and over-assertive policemen alike. She kept wooden clubs in her hand-warming muff. If she sweetly dropped her handkerchief in the street it was as a prelude to a devastating bit of self-defence.

Undaunted by the contrast between the demands of appearance and the demand for political representation, both militant and non-violent suffragists learned to use their clothes as part of a series of battle tactics. For example, women who were dressed impeccably could pass without suspicion into public spaces or political meetings. Once in place they could whip chalk from their purses to scrawl slogans on pavements; they could pull chains from their handbags to secure themselves to railings, in order to have their say while someone searched for bolt-cutters. ‘Slasher’ Mary Richardson even concealed a small axe in her blouse sleeve, ready to attack Velasquez’s painting, the Rokeby Venus, at the National Gallery.

You can read the rest of this article on the intersection of suffragism and fashion via the Edwardian Promenade website.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter

Indian clubs

Indian clubs

The exercise of club-swinging was first introduced to Europe during the late 19th century, by British soldiers who had observed similar exercises performed by wrestlers and other athletes in India. By manipulating the clubs in complex swinging and flourishing patterns, exponents were able to develop their co-ordination, strength, endurance and flexibility.

Club-swinging spread throughout the Western world via public gymnasia, military physical training courses and physical culture classes offered in schools. A “flourishing” trade also developed in home study manuals, further establishing Indian club swinging as a fitness craze that lasted through to the early-mid 20th century.

In 1914 it was announced that members of the newly-formed Bodyguard society of the Women’s Social and Political Union (the militant British Suffragettes) would be armed. Although it was speculated that they would be carrying pistols – a prospect that considerably alarmed the police – their actual weapons were Indian clubs, which they carried concealed in the bustles of their long dresses.

Indian club copy

The Bodyguard developed a number of uses for their new weapons. To counter the common mounted police tactic of backing their horses into groups of suffragette protesters, a woman named Mrs. Haverfield came up with the trick of striking a horse behind the knee joint with an Indian club. The horse would not be hurt but it would sit down quickly, dumping the mounted constable off its back.

Other Bodyguards observed that, because police constables were required to pay for lost equipment out of their own wages, they were inclined to stop fighting and run to retrieve helmets that fell off during scuffles. Therefore, simply knocking off a constable’s helmet with an Indian club would sometimes be an effective delaying tactic.

Bodyguard trainer Edith Garrud recalled an incident in which the suffragettes used their clubs en masse as weapons of intimidation. Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst, recently released from prison to recover from her latest hunger strike, was leading a secret meeting in a building owned by Mrs. Despard, who was a wealthy and prominent supporter of the cause. When the police arrived to re-arrest Mrs. Pankhurst under the “Cat and Mouse Act”, Edith quickly took charge of the situation, arming all the women present with pairs of Indian clubs.

The suffragettes then formed a club-swinging cordon around their leader, processing out of the building and blocking the constables’ attempts to reach her until she could be safely delivered into a waiting cab.

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter

Secret histories and outlaw suffragettes: an interview with Tony Wolf, creator of “Suffrajitsu”

We’re pleased to be able to present this December, 2013 interview with Tony Wolf, the author of the upcoming graphic novel series Suffrajitsu.  Tony’s books will be part of the Foreworld Saga created by Neal Stephenson, Mark Teppo and others.

Both Bartitsu and the elite Bodyguard Society of the British Suffragettes play key roles in the Suffrajitsu trilogy, which will be published by Jet City Comics.

SOME LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD …

Tony Wolf headshot 2

Q – Tony, this is your first graphic novel, but not your first book – how did you come to be asked to write this series, and did your prior work have anything to do with it?

TW – I’ve written and edited quite a lot of historical non-fiction, mostly on esoteric Victorian-era martial arts topics – that’s been my major research interest over the past fifteen years or so.  The project most directly relevant to the graphic novel was a children’s history book called Edith Garrud – the Suffragette that knew Jujitsu, which I wrote in 2009.

I actually kind of moved sideways into scripting Suffrajitsu out of my participation in brainstorming for another Foreworld project.  I think it was in late 2011 that Neal (Stephenson) first mentioned the graphic novel deal with Amazon and asked me to contribute something on the theme of the Suffragette bodyguards.

Q – How did the writing process compare to your prior books/anthologies?

TW – It was a joy in that after so many years of antiquarian research into these themes, this was my first real opportunity to get creative with them.  There was this sense of a dam, not completely bursting, but definitely exploding at certain key points.

Q – Tell us what you can about the series in your own words.

TW – Well, the events of the first book are based very closely on historical reports of actual incidents, although it’s become a kind of “secret history” in that the Suffragette Bodyguards were almost completely forgotten after the First World War.

We’re introduced to the main characters and their situation as political radicals – outlaws, really – in 1914 London.  By that time, both in real history and in my story,  the battle for women’s rights had reached a boiling point.  The suffragettes’ protests and the government’s reprisals were becoming more and more extreme.  Persephone Wright is the leader of a secret society of women known as the Amazons, who are sworn to protect their leaders, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, from arrest and assault.

Q – And that really happened, correct?

TW – Persephone is a fictional character but yes, there really was a secret bodyguard society attached to the militant suffragette movement.

The Amazons are Bartitsu-trained bodyguards and insurgents, saboteurs –  the most radical of the radicals.  They’re all under constant threat of imprisonment and worse.

Something happens in the first book that is a major divergence from actual history and that’s what spins the story off into the alternate timeline of the Foreworld universe.

Q – Where did you get the inspiration for the storyline when it veers away from history?

TW – It was clear that it would take a dramatic event to move the story into the events of the second book … I can’t say much more than that!

Q – But I understand that both historical and fictional characters appear as principal figures?

TW – Yes indeed.  Many of the characters, like Edward Barton-Wright, are lightly fictionalised versions of their historical selves – as well as I “know” them from research – transposed into the Foreworld timeline.

The real Amazons were literally a secret society and even now we only know the names of a few of the actual women who were involved.   I took that as artistic licence to bring in several “ringers” from both fiction and history.  Judith Lee, for example, was the protagonist of Richard Marsh’s popular series of  “lady detective” short stories during the early 20th century.  Flossie le Mar, another member of my imaginary Amazons team, was a historically real person – she was a pioneer of women’s self defence in New Zealand – but she also had a sort of dime novel “alter ego” as the adventurous “Ju-jitsu Girl”, so it was a very easy decision to make her one of the Amazons.

Q – Are any of them purely invented and, if so, what purposes do those characters fulfill?

TW – The only major character that I entirely invented is Persephone Wright herself.  Even though she was partly inspired by several real suffragettes, including Gert Harding and Elizabeth Robins, I wanted the freedom of creating an original protagonist.

Persi actually surprised me several times – she’s much more of a Bohemian than I’d first imagined, and there’s a fascinating tension between her free-thinking inclinations and her disciplined drive to protect people at any cost.  She’s roughly half hippie and half samurai.  I think she’d often really rather be off partying at the Moulin Rouge or writing poetry in a Greenwich Village tea-room, but damn it, she has her duties.

Q – What do you hope will come out of the series?

TW – My dream scenario is that it will inspire readers to create their own stories set in the world of the Amazons; anything beyond that will be gravy.

Q – Do you have any trepidation about being a male author writing a graphic novel with mostly female protagonists?

TW – No, but I’m aware that some readers will have me under the microscope on that account.  My only agenda is that I think it’s amazing that a secret society of female bodyguards defied their government, putting their physical safety and freedom on the line over and over again, to secure the right to participate as equals in a democracy.  Their story was absolutely begging to be told in some medium or other and I’m honoured to have been given that chance.

One thing I tried hard to do, allowing that this is a work of alternate history fiction, was to portray the Amazons as fallible human beings.  For example, some of them have habits and attitudes that have become deeply unfashionable over the past century.  They’re also more-or-less outlaws and have that very specific ethical/political perspective of the end sometimes justifying the means; none of them are entirely “wholesome”.  Actually, none of them are “entirely” anything.  As far as I’m concerned, their foibles, ambiguities and unique perspectives make them worthwhile as characters.

Likewise, I’ve been careful to try to convey that it wasn’t just a simple matter of “righteous women versus oppressive men”.  Historically, many men energetically supported women’s suffrage – the newspapers nicknamed them “suffragents” – and many women were vehemently opposed to it, especially as the cause became more radical.

Q – Would you have been a suffragent?

TW – Absolutely!

Q – How has the process of working on Suffrajitsu been for you?

TW – It’s been an intensive, ground-up self-education in the nuts and bolts of scripting a graphic novel.  You’re constantly playing Tetris with the plot and dialogue to work everything in within strict boundaries – only so many words to a speech balloon, so many speech balloons or captions to a panel, panels to page and so-on. My editors and João Vieira, the artist, have been very patient with me as I’ve worked those things out.

Obviously, there’s a huge amount of sub-plot and back-story etc. that I simply couldn’t fit in.  We’re currently developing the Suffrajitsu.com website for the series, which will help with all of that and hopefully allow for some ongoing, active engagement with readers.  There will also be some free short stories to whet readers’ appetites for further Suffragette Amazon adventures.

Q – Do you have a favourite character or a favourite moment in the series?

TW – Oh, that’s hard … my inner 13-year-old has a real weakness for cool badasses so perhaps the mysterious Miss Sanderson is a favourite in that sense.  Similarly, (name of the villain redacted because spoilers) … the fact that he was actually a real person is somehow both appalling and deeply satisfying. If he hadn’t really existed, I would have had to invent him.

I do have a favourite moment, come to think of it, but that comes late in the third book.  I haven’t even seen the art for that sequence yet, so it’ll have to wait for a future interview!

Q – Finally, then, when will the stories be released?

TW – We don’t have definite dates yet, but the website will probably be officially launched in November and the first book is scheduled to be published during early 2015.  All of the stories will be issued first as individual e-books via Kindle, then later together with some bonus material as a printed collector’s edition.

Q – That’s something to look forward to!  Thanks for your time.

TW – Thank you!

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter

Kitty Marshall: Suffragette bodyguard

In the Suffrajitsu graphic novel, Kitty Marshall is portrayed as the youngest member of the Amazon bodyguard team.  In real life, she was one of the very few members of Mrs. Pankhurst’s undercover security team whose activities were recorded for posterity …

From Jujitsu Suffragettes, by Emelyne Godfrey, BBC History Magazine Nov. 2012.

Kitty Marshall as visualised by artist Yasmin Liang in Book 1 of  the graphic novel "Mrs. Pankhurst's Amazons".
Kitty Marshall as visualised by artist Yasmin Liang.

Katherine Willoughby Marshall, a member of Emmeline’s bodyguard team, later recalled:

“Our orders were that as the clock struck nine we were to jump out and attack the seven policemen and detectives, who had been placed in front of the house where Mrs Pankhurst was a prisoner. Behind our taxi was also another lot of bodyguards, and as the clock struck nine, out rushed the bodyguards who had remained at the house. The blue car was directly in front of the front door, and all of us fell on some policeman or detective. I chose a big man with a large mackintosh cape. I knocked his helmet over his eyes and brandished my Indian club about his head. Out came Mrs. Pankhurst and into the blue car, which was driven away by a smart woman driver, hell for leather…

The bodyguard (and) I got into the waiting taxi and away it went with orders to drive as quickly as possible to Piccadilly Circus. The taxi driver was very interested and wanted to know what it was all about, so I told him that we had helped Mrs. Pankhurst to escape. He said he had never seen anything like it and was very intrigued to have been in the rescue.”

Email this to someoneShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponShare on TumblrTweet about this on Twitter