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.
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.