Ringbelles Retro: It doesn’t get older than this

Wrestlers like the Fabulous Moolah, Judy Grable, Penny Banner and Mildred Burke may be considered the matriarchs of women’s wrestling – but while they made it more socially acceptable, the real beginnings can be traced back to the turn of the 20th century.

Back in 1905 (the year George Hackenschmidt laid claim to being the first Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion), professional wrestling was still in its infancy in the United Kingdom, introduced to the public as part of a variety act to spice up the limited action involved in the bodybuilder strongman attractions. In essence, it was still a sight to behold when it was men stepping up to grapple each other, so can you imagine what it must have been like to see women doing the same thing?

Remember, this was a time when women had few rights – they weren’t given the full right to vote until 1928 – and the suffrage moment was still in a passive infancy.

The footage that you see here is from British wrestling expert John Lister, author of Slamthology and Turning The Tables (arguably the best book on the history of ECW, better than the official version), who trawled through the British Pathe News archives to get hold of this footage and distribute it to the masses.

While it’s tough to read the text, the first part reads:

1905-1932

Twenty Seven years ago, a couple of fairy-like ladies burst upon an astonished world and shocked feminine susceptibilities by wrestling!

Two women wrestlers on stage watched over by male referee.

Have a look to see these “fairy-like ladies” grapple for our entertainment.

Great footage and documenting women’s wrestling to before World War I, as well as the fact that a male ref oversaw the match. Wish more of this type of women’s wrestling history was brought into the mainstream conversation.