I have a new rashguard design I want to show you. First, though, let me ask you two questions: how do you feel about bullies? And have you seen Mary Poppins?
Yes, these questions are related, and they’re also related to the new rashie I’m finishing up. It’s a tribute to Edith Garrud, the Suffragette Who Knew Jiu-Jitsu, and by extension the group of British suffragists she trained to fight around the turn of the last century.
Who was Edith Garrud? The short version: she was the ultimate anti-bully. A 4-foot, 11-inch woman who stood up to gangs of armed men twice her size using jiu-jitsu, and trained dozens of others to do so as well: how could I not make a rashguard paying tribute to a badass like that?
Back before women had the vote, the British government really pulled out all the stops to crush the suffragist movement. There were police beatings, brutal force-feedings of hunger strikers, and more grisly behaviors. Yes, the Edwardian era British crown was fully down with cracking the skulls of prominent women’s suffrage activists like Emmeline Pankhurst.
Nobody likes a bully, and the people trying to beat down women’s suffragists were kind of the exemplar of bullyhood. Fortunately, Mrs. Pankhurst had The Bodyguard, a 30-woman group of buttkickers trained by Edith Garrud. Quoth Lady Edith: “Women using jiu-jitsu have brought great burly cowards nearly twice their size to their feet and made them howl for mercy.”
The British newspaper punch published a cartoon paying homage to Garrud in 1910, dubbing her “The Suffragette Who Knew Jiu-Jitsu.” I used this cartoon to create a composite image as the basis of a new rashie.
This is the front:
This is the back:
Here’s the draft of how the whole works is going to look. This is a rough version, but the body of the rashie is going to mimic old-time newsprint.
When I was a kid, I watched Mary Poppins. Maybe you did, too. Maybe you remember this song, which name-checks the aforementioned Emmeline Pankhurst:
Of course, the movie offers a somewhat sanitized version of a rather gnarly part of history, which you can learn more about through this awesome Prezi, or by checking out some nasty contemporary visual depictions of people who thought women ought to be able to vote.
But what got me thinking about Mary Poppins is the song’s refrain: “Our daughters’ daughters will adore us. And they’ll sing in grateful chorus: ‘Well done, Sister Suffragette!”
Those daughters’ daughters? That’s our generation. About 100 years ago, a bunch of tiny, fearless fighters stood up for themselves. That’s worth remembering and yes, adoring. We take the right to vote for granted today, but half the population has it because some extraordinary people put their asses on the line a few generation ago.
These stories fascinate me, and I’ve of necessity given short shrift to them. (For more, you can listen to a terrific BBC “In Our Time” podcast about this, and an episode of “A History of the World in 100 Objects” about a penny defaced by suffragists in an act of art sabotage).
This post could be thousands of words long, so I’ll cut it short by encouraging you to check out all the links (and of course to buy the rashguard when it comes out!).
We’ll wrap up by noting that the British government, as this article notes, honored Edith with a plaque in 2012. The last paragraph of the piece struck me:
But Tony Wolf cautions against romanticised images of suffragettes throwing officers around. “The bodyguard had some remarkable tactical victories using decoys and disguises,” he says. “But the grim reality is that they were heavily outnumbered by the police and were often injured.”
This premise is true but the conclusion is flawed. They were always outnumbered, and many of these women (Garrud included) wore layers of carboard under their dresses to cushion truncheon blows from police. They were smaller, fewer in number, and hopelessly outgunned in terms of weaponry and resources. That’s undeniable.
But they fought. They were right, and they knew it, and so they fought anyway, often knowing they were going to take beatings. Doesn’t that make them even fiercer and more courageous than if they won every fight? I certainly think so.
Edith Garrud lived to be 99, and kicked enough ass for 99 lifetimes of that length. Well done, Sister Suffragette.