Katie Sandwina

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Katie Sandwina
Barnum & Bailey poster from 1914 advertising Katie Sandwina and her troupe. "Germany's beautiful Herculean Venus possessing the most perfect female figure"

Katie Sandwina (1884 – January 21, 1952), born Katharina Brumbach in Vienna, Austria, was a circus strongwoman.

Life in the circus[edit]

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 City. 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.[1]

Imaginative sketch by artist-reporter Marguerite Martyn of herself being lifted by Sandwina in front of a circus crowd, left, and a realistic Martyn sketch of Sandwina cooking dinner for her son and husband, right, 1911[2]

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.[3][4]

Reporter Marguerite Martyn described her act when the circus came to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1911:

At the moment she was twirling her husband about in dizzy circles above her head . . . . Carelessly, laughingly, she tosses her husband about as though he were not flesh and bone, but merely an effigy of inflated rubber. And he is no insignificant husband, either.[2]


The couple had two sons: Theodore Sandwina, born in Sioux City, Iowa,[5] who was a champion heavyweight boxer in the 1920s; and Alfred Sandwina, who was an actor.

Retirement and death[edit]

In her later years, Katie and her husband operated a restaurant in New York.[6]

Katie Sandwina died of cancer on January 21, 1952.

Popular culture[edit]

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).[citation needed]


  1. ^ https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-great-sandwina
  2. ^ a b "The 'Lady Hercules' Tells Marguerite Martyn," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 4, 1911, Part 2, Page 1
  3. ^ Lidz, Franz (March 21, 1988). "A Lift For Wall Street". Sports Illustrated. Archived from the original on October 11, 2011. Retrieved 2009-06-28. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ "Strongest Woman Is a Weak Eater," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 23, 1927, page 49
  6. ^ "The World's Strongest Woman Retired And Opened A Local, Family Tavern". Times Newsweekly (Queens and Brooklyn, New York City). February 20, 2003. Archived from the original on July 9, 2003. Retrieved 2015-10-25. 

External links[edit]