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The British Newspaper Archive

British Newspaper Archive

Read about historical events at the time they were happening. Perhaps you'll discover your ancestor in their local newspaper?

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Edith Garrud, otherwise known as the “Jui jitsu suffragette” trained the all-female bodyguard who protected suffragettes from aggressive police as women campaigned for the vote. A true feminist icon, Edith was wonderfully ahead of her time, and choreographed fight scenes for films, wrote magazine features, and taught self-defence.

Edith Margaret Williams was born in Bath, Somerset, in 1872. Her family later moved to Wales where she met and married William Garrud, a physical culture instructor who specialized in gymnastics, boxing and wrestling. The couple eventually moved to London, where William began work as a physical trainer.

In 1899, Europe’s first Jui jitsu instructor (and founder of the eclectic art of Bartitsu) Edward William Barton-Wright introduced the couple to Jui jitsu. By 1904, the Garruds were training under the legendary Sadakazu Uyenishi, one of the first Japanese practitioners to both teach the art outside of Asia. When Uyenishi returned to Japan three years later, the couple took over his academy, with Edith leading the women’s and children’s classes.

Edith Garrud

The Garruds also popularised Jui jitsu by performing in many exhibitions throughout London and by writing articles for various publications. In 1907, Edith was featured in Britain’s first ever martial arts film. In 1908, Edith began teaching classes open only to members of the Suffrage movement and choreographed the fight scenes for the 1911 film ‘What Every Woman Ought To Know’.

In 1913 the British government instituted the so-called Cat and Mouse Act to tackle the Suffrage movement. The act meant that suffragettes on hunger strikes could legally be released from jail in order to recover their health and then re-arrested on the original charge. The Women’s Social and Political Union responded to this by establishing a thirty-member, all-woman protection unit referred to as “the Bodyguard” to protect released suffragettes from re-arrest.

Under Edith Garrud’s training, the members of the Bodyguard became experts in Jui jutsu and self-defence using Indian clubs. The group were trained in secret and fought a number of well-publicised hand-to-hand battles with police officers in the streets of London. They proved highly effective and were even able to stage successful escapes and rescues of captured Suffragettes before being disbanded in 1914 after WSPU leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, decided to suspend militant suffrage actions to support the war effort.

The Garruds taught self-defence and Jui jitsu instructors until 1925, when they closed their school. Although the public eye no longer focussed on the couple so keenly, Edith’s remarkable contribution to the Suffrage movement was celebrated on both stage and screen. Edith died at the age of 99 in 1971.

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by John on 15 Apr 2015 17:10 :
Brilliant
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by borzoiholly on 15 Apr 2015 20:05 :
Edith was obviously a woman way ahead of her time but I think some credit should also go to her husband for being a man ahead of his time. He married Edith knowing of her strong will and principles. Then it appears that he also encouraged and supported her interests. They must have made a formidable couple!
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by Sylvia on 15 Apr 2015 20:41 :
I have the greatest admiration for people, especially women who were so ahead of their time with ideas which they then put into practice. It could not have been easy for this couple.
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by Brian on 15 Apr 2015 22:25 :
One should always remember that the term SUFFRAGETTE was a demeaning name and not invented until 1913. Therefore some suffragettes were suffragists. Also there were no suffragettes in New Zealand as the women obtained the vote in 1893.
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by Deirdre on 16 Apr 2015 09:25 :
I had never heard of this lady, excellent piece of information. What a woman!
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by Carole on 16 Apr 2015 14:07 :
I believe the Suffragettes should never be forgotten women did not have have a lot of rights be side the right to vote I do not know if any one in my family had connection's with this movement <3
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by John on 16 Apr 2015 14:40 :
My grandmother, another Edith, was a suffragette and was arrested for smashing a jeweller's window in Bond Street as part of the strategy of diverting the police while others attacked Downing Street. John
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by Lindsay Jane on 27 Aug 2015 08:46 :
:-) <3