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Origins of Mixed and Female Wrestling in the 20th Century

Started by Ronald_Frump, 15-Dec-12, 05:59 PM

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Wrestling was a popular form of entertainment in European fairs and markets. Women participated in matches against other women, but also against men. In a photograph taken at a fair at Neuilly in 1905, a crowd of men and women are gathered before an outdoor stage to stare at a group of wrestlers. From the stage, in the second row, almost unnoticed, a beefy female glares at her challenges. Circus wrestling which flourished in 20th century, had its roots in fair and market-place wrestling.
Volunteers challenging hired wrestlers or fighters (especially female ones) was a common fairground sight. In order to safeguard the troupe's wrestlers from defeat, as well as to prevent the troupe's women from contesting with strong local men, challenges were often announced on behalf of a group of wrestlers with women among them (women were especially advertised). Then show hosts decided who should compete against a volunteer. If a volunteer was a woman, she had very little chance against skillful and strong female wrestlers. Experienced fairground hosts infallibly recognized weak and unskillful male volunteers and ordered out women against them. If a woman managed to defeat a man the audience's joy was limitless, the show had more publicity and more money.
An 1890 spectacle in London featured a blonde female wrestler called Nellie, who offered 5 pounds to any man out of the audience who managed to defeat her in a wrestling match. In 1899 and 1900 female wrestling matches were held in "Les Folies Bergeres" in Paris.
In 1891, the New York "Police Gazette" sponsored a "female wrestling championship match". Dressed in tights, with short hair (to prevent pulling), Miss Alice Williams took on Miss Sadie Morgan in the "Owney Geoghegan's Bastille of the Bowery". 

Above: Female wrestlers Alice Williams and Sadie Morgan wore functional athletic clothing as far as in 1891.
They stepped into the wrestling ring to compete over the "Police Gazette" champion title.

Above; Female wrestling near 1900 in a "Tingeltangel" (popular music hall) in Paris.
By a German collector.

Women's wrestling in the United States (which had begun in fairground sideshows) developed through the "Great American Burlesque Theater" at the turn of the century. Acts where women would box or wrestle other women, or men, could be seen in theaters across the country. According to Nat Fleischer from "Ring Magazine" dated 1966; "Going over a list of old-timers I find Nellie Reville, Sis Howard, Kitty Ammerman, May Edwards, Texas Mamie, the Cleve sisters, Lyde Sheeron, Babe Kelly, Cora Williams, Elsie Burns and Helen Hildreth standing out". Many acts featured both wrestling and boxing. Helen Hildreth and her partner Jack Atkinson had an act where Hildreth mainly boxed while Texas Mamie's act included both wrestling and boxing. The oldest known American female wrestler was Grace Hemindinger. She was a formidable woman weighing-in at 125 kg (275 lbs) and 1.85 m (6' 1") tall. Between 1875 and 1878 she competed against men and she was recognized as one of the best wrestlers of her epoch. After retiring from wrestling, she worked as a strong-woman in a circus. However, she had to disguise herself as a man because the circus promoters thought that public wouldn't accept a female being so strong.
In 1892 Josie Wahlford appeared and remained undefeated until the end of the century. She was the first really capable wrestler to emerge from the burlesque circuit. Wahlford stood 5 feet 8 inches (173cm) and weighed 165lbs (75kg). Josie was powerful. She placed herself in the hands of Charley Blatt, who came from Hoboken and was a strongman more than a wrestler. Blatt taught Josie all the tricks of the trade and she became invincible. She became the first generally accepted champion among the fair wrestlers of the USA. Wahlford soon carved her way through the limited opposition available in those days and at age 24 began touring the vaudeville circuit as a strong-woman act. She called herself Minerva and would lift 700 pounds a foot off the floor and toy with 100-pound dumb bells. She also performed other feats of strength. Undefeated in wrestling, Josie was second only to the great female wrestler of the next generation, Laura Bennett. At the end of Josie's athletic career, when she was 36, she tried to return to wrestling, twice challenging the new champion of the 1900s. However, on both occasions Josie was defeated by Laura Bennett.
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Good stuff, I enjoyed reading that. Thanks for posting Stewie.


Cool beans, Stewie!  :3xc:

Makes you wonder how far back this hobby of ours goes?

Did Louis XVI like to be dominated by his secret mistress via headscissors in bed? Was William the Conqueror a big facesitting lover? Could Alexander the Great be of generation where some males started to secretly enjoy being outwrestled by women? Or is it limited to last 100-150 years when females slowly gained momentum in becoming more equal to men in various activities including being physical, assertive, and being more in charge in general, which led to new breed of men admiring this new kind of powerful dominant females  ;D


It goes a long way back Marty. Spartans encouraged the girls to wrestle. There are written records and stone statues of female gladiators in roman times. There are African tribes where wrestling is a ritual to enter adulthood for both sexes since ancient times. The classic Arabian tale One Thousand and One Nights mention stories where boys disguise themselves as girls to enter girls school and wrestle girls.

The South American tribes also practiced women wrestling form of wrestling called Huka Huka, Kamiura are still prevalent there. The BBC series Last women Standing did an episode on this.

In Japan ladies sumo was considered a very erotic activity and was practised in the redlight areas. Also there are records of mixed matches there.

In India women wrestling was prevalent from ancient times which fascinated foreign travellers.  But the most interesting story comes from the mediavel kingom of Vijaynagar where a female wrestler fought, defeated and killed a male wrestler in revenge of her fathers defeat and murder by the challenger.  The following link has a photo of the stone inscription and the story of the fight.

Including a stone sculpture of female wrestling in India


Cool history post, sheehan.

I wondered when did men actually start to get an erotic charge out of being outwrestled by women, so that Arabian Nights tale would put origins of our hobby (men seeking to wrestle girls) back at least a thousand years.. *cool*


Great stuff Stewis

Think I started wrestling at the start of the 20th century lololol


Quote from: Marty on 18-Dec-12, 06:55 AM
Cool history post, sheehan.

I wondered when did men actually start to get an erotic charge out of being outwrestled by women, so that Arabian Nights tale would put origins of our hobby (men seeking to wrestle girls) back at least a thousand years.. *cool*

Probably older greek mythology and Norse Mythology has tales of women wrestling men.

Peleus the father of Achilles was defeated by Atlanta a princess who was a famous hunter and athlete. He later went onto defeat his future wife in wrestling to win her hand. Two vase paintings depicting the bout is included.

Also there are mentioned bouts between Dionosys and Pallene

Norse Mythology mentions Thor proud of his strength been bested in wrestling by a older woman thereby shaming himself.

I know it is difficult to prove legends or mythologies but I believe all these tales have some incidents and truth behind them which later gets blown up and told in a greater colour giving rise to Myths and legends. (A case in point the great Indian Epic Mahabharata which is based on an actual war whose sight has been discovered with artifacts and discovery of Troy mentioned in Greek epic Illiad and Odyssey)

So we can safely conclude that this hobby/fetish of ours have been passed on to us by our ancestors may be dating back to the cavemans when probably the first men wrestled the first women for say food and the first wrestling hold to be used probably was the scissors  ;) All that remains now is the discovery of a cave painting  ;D


Quote from: Stewie_Griffin on 15-Dec-12, 05:59 PM

In 1891, the New York "Police Gazette" sponsored a "female wrestling championship match". Dressed in tights, with short hair (to prevent pulling), Miss Alice Williams took on Miss Sadie Morgan in the "Owney Geoghegan's Bastille of the Bowery". 

Does the Police Gazette mention who won Stewie ??



Quote from: sheehan333 on 18-Dec-12, 02:28 PM

Does the Police Gazette mention who won Stewie ??

Can't find it, but its got to be on record.
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From Michael Whitby's 2001 book Sparta, p. 141:  "It is, however, a little hard to credit the evidence of Euripides (Andr. 597-600) that the girls wrestled naked with the boys. 43 ... Footnote 43 says "We do, however, learn from Athenaios (XIII. 566e) of mixed wrestling between adolescents on the island of Chios."

The Euripides reference comes from his tragedy Andromache.  A translation I checked has a line:  "Nor, if one of the Spartan girls wished to chaste, could she be; they leave their homes, and, in the company of youths, with naked thighs and loose robes race and wrestle along with them, things unendurable to me."

It should be noted that Euripides was an Athenian, writing negatively about his city's enemy, Sparta.  Whether he had any direct knowledge is debatable but it certainly could be what the Athenians believed.

The source on Chios:  "On the island Chios the most pleasant thing is to walk over to the gymnasiums and running-tracks and to watch the young men wrestling with the girls. Athenaeus. The Deipnosophists. XIII."


sexual domination/power-play is as old as sexuality itself, in all likelihood, though of course it receives a lot more attention nowadays! there's some interesting stuff in this thread - I feel i learned something! though of course it is very much difficult to prove what inspired myths, and equally difficult to rely on ancient historians as reliable, the fact that references were so widespread shows that these things existed and were known of, even if the specific instances are unverifiable.


You are right on

Irs been around for many years, even longer than I have been around lol

Just didn thave the internet to share about it

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