It’s often forgotten in modern times that women’s most basic rights weren’t won prettily or peacefully: the suffragettes‘ campaign for the vote included a coordinated campaign of vandalism against shops, a protracted hunger strike that led to women being forcefed in prison (with some horrific injuries, as one can imagine of turn-of-the-century doctors trying to “safely” forcefeed women gruel with a tube) and the famous Epsom Derby incident. Their protests were often violently broken up by the police (in modern media parlance, “the demonstration turned violent”) and much of British and US society was terrified of this new breed of women (called “modern girls” in Japan) who were willing to do very unlady-like things to get what they believed women deserved.
To the suffragettes’ long list of violent activism we can add the deployment of an organized militia trained in jujitsu: the Guardian today reports on Edith Garrud, a diminutive woman with jujitsu training who was responsible for training Emmeline Parkhurst’s bodyguards. I would be intrigued to read more about this situation, because I guess there were no jujitsuka in Britain at the time, and certainly no white jujitsuka – this means that she must have learnt from a Japanese person who was, one presumes, a Japanese man. Or did Japan also have a secret cadre of highly-trained female jujitsu practitioners? I have visions of a cabal of art nouveau-styled schoolgirl feminist ninjas, deploying jujitsu in defense of … of … ninja things. And teaching it to passing suffragettes.
So there you go – western feminists polished up their violent mojo under the tutelage of the Japanese. Is there a stranger connection in the history of radical politics?
fn1: never let it be said that feminism and Libyan socialism have no common roots! Just like Gaddafi, the leaders of the suffragette movement had an all-female bodyguard!