Friday, June 28, 2013

Jujitsu Suffragettes

If you are at all like me, you probably read just the title itself and thought, "I have to know more about this."

While walking through the local library yesterday, I caught a glimpse of a more recent issue (Vol. 13, No. 12 for those interested) of the BBC History Magazine with the same title on the cover and just had to pick it up. We know about our sister suffragettes here in the states with their picketing, parades, and demonstrations, but a jujitsu suffragette? It definitely makes you want to know more, especially when it's accompanied by this illustration.

BBC History Magazine

I'll try not to make this too long-winded, but we know the basic origins of suffragettes - women who wanted equality at the polls and used various means to try and invoke a change. There were the peaceful women's advocate groups, and then there were those who were impatient for change and chose their own tactics. Enter the suffragette.

The subject of the women's vote at the turn of the century was a touchy subject, both in the states and across the pond. Often, the press would portray these ladies as "unhinged and disorganized" leading to violent reactions. For suffragettes involved in active demonstrations where crowds could quickly become unruly, they tried to fight this image by "combating any physical aggression with minimal aggression." Which meant the Edwardian hatpins were off-limits.

Others used dog-whips, but even these got a bad reputation as well, ranking up there with the hatpins and toffee hammers. Then the idea of protection via hand-to-hand combat began to surface.

Edith Garrud was an English suffragette whose husband was a jujitsu teacher and she assisted with his classes. Jujitsu became ideal because it was good for people who are smaller in stature. After a demonstration at the local chapter of the Women's Social and Political Union, the suffragettes took to the self-defense method faster than Alice Paul could yell, "Votes for Women!"

Soon, "ju-jutsuffragettes" became the new terror of the London Police. Because what's apparently worse than a rabid suffragette out for the vote? One who can defend herself, as the below cartoon from Punch implies.
BBC History Magazine
To the best of my knowledge, I have never heard of jujitsu suffragettes here in the states, so this was a rather interesting read. I've detailed the basics to hopefully give you a sample, but the full article itself is a fun and interesting read (trust the BBC to make history a cool topic). Also there's some great pictures of Ms. Garrud demonstrating how to throw a policeman to the ground in her 1910's clothing while keeping her enormous feathered hat on, yet remaining the respectable lady she was.

For the full article, check your local library or download the magazine issue to a digital device from the magazine's Website.

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