Who is she?
Edith Margaret Garrud was among the first female professional martial arts instructors in the Western world. She famously trained the British suffragettes of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in jujitsu self-defence techniques.
Edith (pictured here taking down a police officer) and her husband William Garrud were working as physical trainers for universities in London when they were introduced to jujitsu. They ran a martial arts school in Soho, London, where Edith taught classes for members of the suffrage movement.
When the UK government introduced the Cat and Mouse Act (where suffragette leaders on hunger strikes were released from jail to recover their health, then re-arrested), the WSPU formed their own all-woman bodyguard unit to protect suffragettes from being re-arrested. Their tactics included hand-to-hand combat with police, as well as disguises and decoys to avoid arrest.
Edith was their trainer and she not only taught them jujitsu, but how to fight with Indian clubs.
In the upcoming movie Suffragette, Helena Bonham Carter’s character is modelled on Edith.
Why should we thank her?
The Suffragettes’ war cry of “deeds, not words” was a serious business – these women violently clashed with police, went on hunger strikes and put their lives on the line.
Edith’s contribution to the movement was significant. That aside, how incredibly cool is it that she was a jujitsu trainer in the early 1900s, let alone that she taught women how to defend themselves?