Edith Garrud, the Jujitsu Suffragist,
"Woman is exposed to many perils nowadays, because so many who call themselves ‘men’ are not worthy of that exalted title."
—- Edith Margeret Garrud
Born in 1872, Edith Margaret Garrud was your typical English Victorian/Edwardian Era lady as a lady was to expected to be. Then in 1899 Edith and her husband William took personal martial arts lessons from Edward Barton-Wright. Barton was an engineer who spent five years in Japan studying martial arts. He became famous as the inventor of Bartitsu, a popular Victorian Era martial art which combined boxing, cane fighting, and Jujitsu. Later Garrud studied under the Japanese Jujitsu master Sadakazu Uyenishi, who started a school in Soho. When Uyenishi returned to Japan in 1908, Garrud took over his school, becoming the first female martial arts instructor in Western history. In the early 1900’s Garrud had a prosperous career teaching self defense and choreographing fight scenes for plays and for Britain’s emerging film industry. However, with the rise of the suffrage movement Garrud would become a legend in women’s history.
The late 19th and early 20th century saw the worldwide rise of the suffrage movement, a movement for women’s rights, specifically the right to vote. However being a suffragette was not easy. Often protests and demonstrations were mobbed by violent, angry men who would beat and even club the demonstrating women. Often the worst violence was committed by the police who were more interested in beating women into submission rather than peacefully enforcing the law. Many women were badly beaten, or even killed due to the violence.
A passionate suffragist, Garrud decided the women’s movement needed her help. She began holding special classes for suffragists to teach them methods of self defense and street combat. She also trained an elite group of 30 women called “The Bodyguard” who were tasked with protecting suffragist leaders in Britain during demonstrations. A hardcore group of badass ladies, the Jujitsu suffragettes were trained in hand to hand combat, armed with Indian clubs (bowling pins), and wore cardboard armor under their clothing as protection against clubs and truncheons.
However, Garrud not only specialized in the theory of martial arts, but direct application as she took to the streets with her fellow suffragettes. Between 1908 and 1914 she was involved in a number of “incidents” in which she was attacked by cops or unruly thugs. In the battle that ensued she would throw around, joint lock, choke out, and all around beat the crap out of anyone who dared lay a hand on her.
The Bodyguard was disbanded in 1914, as most suffragists suspended operations to support the war effort. During the war Garrud encouraged women to take jobs in factories formerly held by men (who were off to war) in order to support the country. In 1918 women’s suffrage became the law of Britain with the passing of the Representation of the People Act. The 19th Amendment also granted women suffrage in the US in 1920.
Edith Garrud continued her career as a martial arts instructor and physical fitness trainer. In 1925 Garrud retired from public life and made a very comfortable living speculating in real estate with her husband. On her 94th birthday she gave one last interview to Woman Magazine, demonstrating some of her joint locking techniques to journalst Godfrey Winn.
Edith Garrud passed away in 1971 at the age of 99.