Tracy S. Morris

Quirky Mysteries, Screwball Fantasy and Sassy History

I Am Not Making This Up: When Suffragettes Used Jujitsu

Written By: Tracy - Jan• 29•18

Suffrajujitsu In 1913, being a Suffragette (or a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, WSPU for short) was a hazard to one’s health. Women campaigning for the right to vote faced vigilante attacks and police brutality.

These women defended themselves and in some cases literally struck back with Jujitsu.

The push for Jujitsu as a suffrage self-defense came through Edith Margaret Garrud. Edith’s husband William was a physical culture instructor (an early version of a physical fitness instructor).

The duo were introduced to Jujitsu in 1899 by Edward William Barton-Wright (a man whose mustache was as lethal as his fists). Wright also developed Bartitsu, which is known today mostly as the fighting style practiced by Sherlock Holmes.

Both William and Edith studied Jujitsu, eventually learning under Sadakazu Uyenishi, one of the first men to bring Asian Martial Arts into the West. Under his tutelage, the Garruds became proficient. Edith was featured in a short film in 1907 entitled Ju-jitsu Downs The Footpads in which she fended off attackers using Martial Arts.

In 1908, the Garruds took over Sadakazu Uyenishi’s school when he returned to Japan. At the school, Edith taught classes for women and children.

Around this time, the women’s suffrage movement in England was taking a violent turn. Women were increasingly resorting to civil disobedience, using techniques like setting post boxes on fire, chaining themselves to railings, smashing windows and bombing churches. Women who marched claimed that they were beaten and groped by police and vigilantes.

On November 18, 1910, over 300 marching women clashed with police outside parliament. Many were assaulted. Two died and more than 100 were arrested.

A poster dramatizing a woman being force fed. In prison, the women were beaten, doused in cold water and left without blankets in cold cells. When they went on hunger strikes as a scare tactic, they were force fed. Force feeding involved being strapped down, having a too-large tube shoved down the throat and being fed a disgusting concoction that had goose fat in it.

Edith and William had already been active with the WSPU, teaching self defense classes. William would talk while 4ft 11 inch Edith would demonstrate. One night, William was home sick, so Edith took on both roles.

From that moment on, she became the primary facilitator of self defense. She emphasized pressure-point techniques, and using an attacker’s larger size against them.

The press took notice, dubbing the women the Jiu-jitsuffragettes. Their martial arts training became known as suffrajitsu.

By 1913, the government allowed hunger striking women to be temporarily released so that they could regain their health.

Emmeline Pankhurst To protect Emmeline Pankhurst and the other politically-active leaders of the movement, and prevent their re-arrest, the WSPU and Edith formed a guard unit of women, whom they called The Bodyguard (but the press quickly nicknamed them The Amazons). Up to 30 women were armed, trained and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

On several occasions, The Bodyguard saved WSPU leader Emmeline Pankhurst from arrest by brawling with police.

With the advent of WWI, the WSPU’s activism took a backseat. Instead members focused on supporting the war effort. At the end of the war, women over 30 were granted the right to vote. In another ten years the age restriction was lowered to 21.

As the focus of the WSPU shifted, their need for The Bodyguard ended. Edith and her husband continued to teach Jujitsu until 1925. At that point they sold their school and retired. Edith was 53. She died in 1971 at age 99.

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