Sunday, January 17, 2010

Edith Garrud and the Ju-jitsu Suffragettes

Around the world, women were denied equal representation until early in the 20th century. (And of course, in Middle Eastern countries, women are still suffering under the boot of oppression -- women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to drive cars, for example, and of course we've all seen the eyes of women staring out of burkhas that cover the rest of their face...lest the sight of their beauty inflame the lust of men....)

Women both in England and the US agitated for the right to vote - staging sit-ins, hunger strikes and so on.

Edith Margaret Garrud, nee Williams (1872-1971) was among the first female professional martial arts instructors in the Western world -- specifically in England.

In about 1893 Edith married William Garrud, a physical culture instructor.

In 1899 the Garruds were introduced to the art of jujutsu by Edward William Barton-Wright, the first jujutsu teacher in Europe and the founder of the eclectic martial art of Bartitsu (which Arthur Conan Doyle claimed Sherlock Holmes was an expert at, under the name Baritsu).

Five years later, they became students at former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi's jujutsu school in Golden Square, Soho. In 1907 Edith was featured as the protagonist in a short film entitled "Ju-jutsu Downs the Footpads", produced by the Pathe Film Company.

When Uyenishi returned to Japan in 1908, William took over as the owner and manager of the Golden Square school and Edith became the instructor of the women's and children's classes.

The Garruds popularised jujutsu by performing numerous exhibitions throughout London and by writing articles for various magazines. Beginning in 1908, Edith also taught classes open only to members of the Suffrage movement. From 1911 these classes were based at the Palladium Academy, a dance school in London's Argyll Street.

In January of 1911 Edith Garrud choreographed the fight scenes for a polemic play entitled "What Every Woman Ought to Know." In August of that year one of her articles on women's self defence was published in Health and Strength Magazine.

In 1913, as a response to the so-called Cat and Mouse Act whereby Suffragette leaders on hunger strikes could legally be released from jail and then re-arrested, the W.S.P.U. established a thirty-member, all-woman protection unit referred to as "the Bodyguard". Edith Garrud became the trainer of the Bodyguard and taught them jujutsu and the use of Indian clubs as defensive weapons. Their lessons took place in a succession of secret locations to avoid the attention of the police. The Bodyguard fought a number of well-publicised hand-to-hand combats with police officers who were attempting to arrest their leaders.

On several occasions they were also able to stage successful escapes and rescues, making use of tactics such as disguise and the use of decoys to confuse the police.

The Bodyguard was disbanded shortly after the onset of the First World War. W.S.P.U. leader Emmeline Pankhurst had decided to suspend militant suffrage actions and to support the British Government during the crisis, and therefore no longer required protection.

Now wouldn't that make a great movie!

(The photos are from a short film Garrud made, and its an actor in the police uniform.)

1 comment:

Tony Wolf said...

Nice write-up! I agree that Edith was a fascinating character and that the adventures of her "Jujitsuffragettes" would make great material for a movie. There was actually a documentary made on that theme around 1980, but unfortunately it's proven to be very difficult to track down.

You might be interested in a nonfiction book my wife and I produced last year - . It's written for a teenage audience and contains every scrap of information we've found on Edith Garrud and the Suffragette Bodyguard.