Life in the circus
Katie Brumbach was one of fourteen children born to circus performers Philippe and Johanna Brumbach. In her early years, Katie performed with her family. Katie's father would offer one hundred marks to any man in the audience who could defeat her in wrestling; no one ever succeeded in winning the prize. It was during one such performance that Katie met her husband of fifty-two years, Max Heymann.
Brumbach once defeated the famous strongman Eugene Sandow in a weightlifting contest in New York. Katie lifted a weight of 300 pounds over her head, which Sandow only managed to lift to his chest. After this victory, she adopted the stage name "Sandwina" as a feminine derivative of Sandow.
Sandwina worked in the United States with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for many years, until she was nearly 60. One of her standard performance feats was lifting her husband (who weighed 165 pounds) overhead with one hand. She performed many other feats, such as bending steel bars and resisting the pull of four horses. Sandwina's record stood for many years until being eclipsed by women's weightlifter Karyn Marshall in 1987.
In her later years, Katie and her husband operated a restaurant in New York. They had two sons: Theodore Sandwina, who was a champion heavyweight boxer in the 1920s; and Alfred Sandwina, who was an actor. Katie Sandwina died from cancer on January 21, 1952.
Katie "Sandwina" Brumbach is depicted as a member of a secret society of bodyguards protecting the leaders of the radical suffragettes in the graphic novel trilogy Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst's Amazons (2015).
- Old Timer (February 20, 2003). "The World’s Strongest Woman Retired And Opened A Local, Family Tavern". Times Newsweekly.[dead link]
- Lidz, Franz (March 21, 1988). "A Lift For Wall Street". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2009-06-28.
- Julie Carft (July 29, 1989). "Image is Heavy Burden - Weightlifter Karyn Marshall Feels Pressure to Project 'Femininity, Intelligence'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-10-02.
- Talking with: The World's Strongest Woman Iron Game History, August 1991, reprinting (and possibly translating) from the German paper Woven Man Spricht, December 8, 1910, and posted at the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles' website
- The Human Marvels presenting peculiar people: SANDWINA - Woman of Steel