Ladies Who Lunge: Women Fighting Through History

"Goodness, I'm terribly sorry."


We’re delighted to have been featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Making History’ and are thrilled that the subject was archive footage of ladies fighting!

The feature ‘Lady punch ball champion of the world’ came about after a listener Jill Bernardotte in France contacted the programme about her Great Aunt who became the star of “a fabulous Pathé news clip” in 1933. Ida began her life as a music hall artist and her real name was Harriet Ida Waite-Gibbs.

Vanessa loved the clip, calling it  “Incredibly quirky and incredibly, incredibly British!”

She then spoke to Professor Toulmin, Director of the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield who put Ida’s achievements into their historical context, asking: “Are women like Ida fulfilling a late Victorian / early Edwardian sporting pornography?” To which Professor Toulmin replied: “Even though these women were athletic they still had to maintain a maidenly decorum. It would have been more shocking to have worn trousers than to punch a man.” Which is why Ida is to be seen sipping tea gracefully between taking deadly lunges at a punch bag in her newsreel.

Inspired by this “Relationship between a big surge in physical culture, physical fitness and sport” we had a rummage for more great historical clips of women fighting. Here are six of the best (and three more for good measure – there were too many good clips to narrow it down!).

My favourite is ‘Judo Debs’… ! After you’ve watched these let us know what you think on our Facebook group ‘British Pathe Film Archive’. Enjoy!

‘Amazons of Yesterday’: Women Boxing in 1918

‘Womens Champion Punchball’: 1933

‘Young Women Train for American Football’: 1928

‘Foiled’: Ladies Fencing Club in 1931

‘Judo Debs – Glam Girls Slam Male Opponents’: 1956

‘Real Knockabouts – Women Wrestling’: 1932

‘The Gentler Sex’ – Comedy Boxing Routine in 1931

‘Kangaroo Fights Woman’ – 1931

‘Tough Girls’: 1947

* * * * *

You can listen to Vanessa and ‘Making History’ on BBC Radio 4 online now: go here!


Author: British Pathé

British Pathé holds the world's finest newsreel collection. We also represent the Reuters historical collection. All 220K films are viewable on our website.

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