Edith Margaret Garrud was a typical English Victorian/Edwardian Era lady; then in 1899 Edith and her husband William took personal martial arts lessons from Edward Barton-Wright (Bartitsu Creator). 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. In 1907, Edith was featured as the protagonist in a short film entitled Ju-jutsu Downs the Footpads, which was produced by the Pathé Film Company.
With the rise of the suffrage movement Garrud would become a legend in women’s history; in 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. Often demonstrations were mobbed by violent, angry men who would beat and even club the protesting 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. 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 trained an elite group of 30 women called “The Bodyguard” who were tasked with protecting suffragist leaders in Britain during Protests and demonsrtations. A group of modern Amazons, 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. 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 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 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.
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On her 94th birthday she gave one last interview to Woman Magazine, demonstrating some of her joint locking techniques to journalist Godfrey Winn.