Edith Margaret Garrud

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The Suffragette that Knew Jiu-Jitsu. The Arrest. By Arthur Wallis Mills, originally published in 1910 in Punch and The Wanganui Chronicle.

Edith Margaret Garrud (1872–1971) was among the first female professional martial arts instructors in the Western world. She trained the Bodyguard unit of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in jujutsu self-defence techniques.


She was born Edith Margaret Williams in 1872 in Bath, Somerset. Five years later, her family moved to Wales, where she remained until circa 1893. She married William Garrud, a physical culture instructor specializing in gymnastics, boxing and wrestling. They moved to London, where William found work as a physical culture trainer for several universities.

In 1899, the Garruds were introduced to the art of jiu jitsu by Edward William Barton-Wright, the first jiu jitsu teacher in Europe and the founder of the eclectic martial art of Bartitsu. Five years later, they became students at the jiu jitsu school of the former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi in Golden Square, Soho. In 1907, Edith was featured as the protagonist in a short film entitled Jiu-jitsu Downs the Footpads, which was produced by the Pathé Film Company.

When Uyenishi left England in 1908, William took over as the owner and manager of the Golden Square school and Edith became the instructor of the women's and children's classes.

The Garruds popularised jujutsu by performing numerous exhibitions throughout London and by writing articles for magazines. Beginning in 1908, Edith also taught classes for the "Suffragettes Self-Defence Club", which was only open to members of the Suffrage movement. From 1911, these classes were based at the Palladium Academy, a dance school in Argyll Street.

In January 1911, Edith Garrud choreographed the fight scenes for a polemic play entitled What Every Woman Ought to Know. In August that year, one of her articles on women's self-defence was published in Health and Strength magazine.

Trainer of bodyguards[edit]

In 1913, the Asquith government instituted the so-called Cat and Mouse Act whereby Suffragette leaders on hunger strikes could legally be released from jail in order to recover their health and then re-arrested on the original charge. The WSPU responded by establishing a thirty-member, all-woman protection unit referred to as "the Bodyguard", the "Jiujitsuffragettes" and the "Amazons", to protect fugitive suffragettes from re-arrest. Edith Garrud became the very first trainer of the Bodyguard and taught them jujutsu and the use of Indian clubs as defensive weapons. Their lessons took place in a succession of secret locations to avoid the attention of the police.

The Bodyguard fought a number of well-publicised hand-to-hand combats with police officers who were attempting to arrest their leaders, most famously during the so-called "Battle of Glasgow" on 9 March 1914 and during the WSPU "Raid on Buckingham Palace" on 24 May 1914.

On several occasions they were also able to stage successful escapes and rescues, making use of tactics such as disguise and the use of decoys to confuse the police. A number of these incidents are described in the unpublished memoir of Bodyguard member Katherine "Kitty" Marshall, titled "Suffragette Escapes and Adventures". Journalists coined the term "suffrajitsu" - a portmanteau of "suffragette" and "jiujitsu" - to describe their techniques of self-defence, sabotage and subterfuge.

The Bodyguard was disbanded shortly after the onset of the First World War. WSPU leader Emmeline Pankhurst had decided to suspend militant suffrage actions and to support the British Government during the crisis, and therefore no longer required protection.

Later life[edit]

Edith and William Garrud continued to work as self-defence and jiujutsu instructors until 1925, when they sold their school and appear to have retired from public life. There is some evidence to suggest that they may have been successful as investors in the property market. Edith is recorded as having made several contributions to various charitable causes during the 1950s and 1960s.

In 1966, on her 94th birthday, Edith Garrud was the subject of an extensive feature article published in Woman magazine.

In 1971 she died at the age of 99.

Portrayals in popular culture[edit]

Edith Garrud was portrayed by the actresses Judith Lowe and Jeanne Dorree for the Channel 4 docudrama The Year of the Bodyguard (1982), with Lowe playing Garrud circa 1913 and Dorree playing the elderly Garrud circa 1967.

Her involvement with the Suffragettes is portrayed in Ann Bertram's play The Good Fight (2012), the story of the suffragette Grace Roe as performed by Theatre Unbound[1] and in Peter Hilton's play Mrs Garrud's Dojo (2003).[2]

Edith Garrud also makes a cameo appearance in Issue #1 of the graphic novel trilogy Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst's Amazons (January 2015) and appears as a supporting character in the spin-off novella The Second-Story Girl.

The character of Edith Ellyn in Suffragette was somewhat inspired by Edith Garrud. Helena Bonham Carter modeled her performance after Garrud and requested the character's name be changed from Caroline to Edith in her honour. The film includes a brief scene in which Mrs. Ellyn teaches self-defence to a group of radical suffragettes.[3]

Edith Garrud is featured in two re-enactment scenes in the documentary No Man Shall Protect Us (2018), portrayed by actress Lynne Baker.

In the film Enola Holmes (2020), the titular character is taught jiu jitsu by an instructor named Edith, played by Susie Wokoma.


Commemorative plaque in Thornhill Square.

On 30 June 2011, an Islington People's Plaque was placed outside Edith Garrud's former home in Thornhill Square by Islington London Borough Council.[4]

On 23 April 2013, Edith Garrud's image was included in a sculpture installation unveiled outside Finsbury Park bus and tube station.[5]

On 12 May 2014 Edith Garrud was the subject of a short documentary screened by BBC1's The One Show, presented by Honor Blackman.


  1. ^ Everett, Matthew (1 October 2012). "Theatre Unbound's jujitsu suffragettes fight "The Good Fight"". Daily Planet. Retrieved 21 November 2012.
  2. ^ Hilton, Peter, Mrs Garrud's Dojo; A play in two scenes and three songs, 2003, New York, NY.
  3. ^ Olivia Truffaut-Wong. "Is Edith In 'Suffragette' Based On A Real Person? The Movie Took Inspiration From Actual Fighters For Women's Rights". Bustle. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Islington People's Plaques 2011 — Edith Margaret Garrud (1872-1971), Suffragette and teacher of Jiu jitsu - 356 votes". Islington London Borough Council. Archived from the original on 22 March 2015.
  5. ^ Andrew Johnson (26 April 2013). "Jazzie B, health pioneer and ju jitsu-training suffragette all honoured with statues in Finsbury Park". Islington Tribune.


  • Couch, Jason. "The Jujutsu Suffragettes", Martial History Magazine, January 2008.
  • Crawford, Elizabeth. The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide, 1866-1928, London: Routledge, 2000, p. 240.
  • Garrud, Edith. "The World We Live In: Self-Defence", Votes for Women newspaper, 4 March 1910, p. 355.
  • Mackenzie, Midge. Shoulder to Shoulder, London: Vintage, 1988.
  • Raeburn, Antonia. The Militant Suffragettes, London: Michael Joseph, 1976, p. 96.
  • Rouse, Wendy. Her Own Hero: The Origins of the Women's Self-Defense Movement. New York: New York University Press, 2017.
  • Wilson, Gretchen. With All Her Might: The Life of Gertrude Harding, Militant Suffragette, Holmes & Meier, 1998.
  • Winn, Godfrey. "Dear Mrs. Garrud - I wish I'd known you then ... ", Woman magazine, 19 June 1965.
  • Wolf, Tony (edited by Kathrynne Wolf). Edith Garrud: the Suffragette who knew jujutsu, 2009.