Suffragette jujutsu

Edith Margaret Garrud trained British suffragettes in Japanese martial arts so that they could evade capture by the police.

Arthur Wallis Mills / Public domain

In the battles between the British suffragettes and the Powers That Be (especially the police and parliament) both sides employed some pretty novel tactics to outmanoeuvre each other. It was a conceptual and sometimes physical arms race.

When the suffragettes got in trouble with the police (for things like arson and that whole, you know, protesting for the rights of women thing) they were tried and sent to jail. The jailed suffragettes responded by going on hunger strike.

At first the Powers that Be tried to force-feed them – but that only led to a public outcry and much greater sympathy for the suffragettes’ cause. In 1913 parliament issued a new law: the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act. This allowed them to release the hunger strikers but then re-arrest them and take them right back to jail once they stopped striking. It was commonly and appropriately known as the Cat and Mouse Act.

The suffragette response? They set up an all-female defence force called the Bodyguard to stop the re-arrests. And to train up this squad of thirty women they called on one of the first Western experts in martial arts, Edith Margaret Garrud.

Garrud had been teaching suffragettes jujutsu since 1908. She and her husband were pretty famous in self-defence circles – they had trained under Edward William Barton-Wright and Sadakazu Uyenishi.

(Side note: Barton-Wright was one of the key figures in the introduction of martial arts to Europe; his weird hybrid martial art called Bartitsu was famously the technique Sherlock Holmes used in his battle with Moriarty. Sadakazu Uyenishi was one of the first martial artists to come from Japan to Europe to teach the nascent martial arts craze.)

Garrud had also featured in a few early martial arts films. Alas her appearances do not appear to be available online, but you may enjoy this film (not Garrud) on martial arts for self-defence from 1923:

Anyway, Garrud trained the Bodyguard in jujutsu, and they used it to great effect in subsequent battles with the police and rescues from the police – most famously, when they tried to arrest famous suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.

2 Replies to “Suffragette jujutsu”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s