“I am a woman, but no weakling” – Judith Lee, lady detective

He stopped – there was silence. The bell rang again. I was just about to suggest again that he should go and see who was at the outer door when – he leapt at me. And I was unprepared. He had me by the throat before I had even realised that danger threatened.

I am a women, but no weakling. I have always felt it my duty to keep my body in proper condition, trying to learn all that physical culture can teach me. I only recently had been having lessons in jiu-jitsu – the Japanese art of self defence. I had been diligently practicing a trick which was intended to be used when a frontal attack was made upon the throat. Even as, I dare say, he was thinking that I was already as good as done for, I tried that trick. His fingers released my throat and he was on the floor without, I fancy, understanding how he got there. I doubt if there ever was a more amazed man. When he began to realise what had happened he gasped up at me – he was still on the floor – “You … you …”

The above is quoted from the short story Mandragora, part of the Judith Lee detective series written between 1912-16 by Richard Marsh. Among the first protagonists of the still very popular lady detective genre, Judith Lee brought several unusual talents to her role as an amateur sleuth, including an almost uncanny ability to read lips and a willingness to physically apprehend evil-doers, thanks to her training in physical culture and jiujitsu. Certainly, she was among the first heroines in Western literature to have studied Eastern martial arts.

Isolda cried, with what he probably meant to be crushing dignity:

“Brayshaw, put this woman outside at once!”

The command seemed to be addressed to the barrel-shaped person. There was dignity neither in the manner of his approach nor in the words he used.

“Now, young woman, out you go! We’ve seen your sort before. We want none of your nonsense here! Not another word – outside! I don’t want to touch you, but I shan’t hesitate to do so if you make me.”

I smiled at the barrel-shaped man. The idea of such a creature putting me out of the room was really too funny.

“I will recommend you, Mr. Brayshaw, not to touch me, unless you wish to discover what an extremely ugly customer a woman can be.”

He tried to touch me, stretching out his hand with, I fancy, the intention of taking me by the shoulder. I am quite sure that, before he knew what had struck him, he was on his back on the floor.

“If you will be advised by me, you will allow me to make the remarks that I intend to make without any interruption; because, in any case, I intend to make them.” –

– Richard Marsh, Isolda

Several of Judith’s original (circa 1914) adventures are linked to from the Bunburyist website. She is also a supporting character in the Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy and you can read about her first encounter with the Amazons here: Judith Lee – her new and wonderful detective feats – The Wrestler and the Diamond Ring.

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