The Cally’s Kick Ass Heroine
It is good to see Islington’s Peoples Plaque scheme continuing, with the latest one for Edith Garrud unveiled this weekend. Edith was a real kick ass heroine – known as the Jujitsu Suffragette, and star of Britain’s first martial arts film.
Edith and her husband were physical training instructors, a fairly unusual job for a woman in the 1890s. In 1899 they were introduced to Jujitsu by Edward Barton Wright, who had travelled extensively in Japan. Edith excelled at this and was appointed chief instructor at the Jujitsu school in the West End. In 1907 Pathe films were looking for new subjects for action for narrative films and a jujitsu action movie was perfect. Edith starred in Jujitsu Brings Down the Footpads” which involved a purse thief being chased across various London locations, before Edith delivers her own brand of street justice!
When the suffragettes began their campaign of window breaking they started using the Jujitsu school as a place to rendezvous, with Edith offering an alibi. She soon became involved in the movement herself, setting up training for an elite suffragette bodyguard in secret locations. When the police tried to arrest the Pankhurst’s the Jujitsu guard was there. Edith was only 4 ft 11 but seen to have thrown a 13 stone policeman over her shoulder. A Punch cartoon showed a group of policemen cowering away from her.
After the success of the votes for women campaign, Edith carried on as a martial arts instructor and lived in Thornhill Square Islington until she died aged 94. Its great to see her get her own plaque, it’s an impressive story. You can hear more stories from the history of Caledonian Road and the surrounding streets in our walk Up The Cally on July 8th.