These women from the 1900s were some of the first female body builders

Here's a look at the first "strongwomen" who defied a society that limited women to the kitchen and household chores

By Maha Ali

KARACHI: The advent of strongwomen, women who prioritized physical strength via body building, was first heard of in the early 1900s. This was a time where women had little or no rights in society, were considered the weaker sex, were only useful for household work and almost disabled outside of it. The strength that women held was laughed at by a heavily patriarchal society that believed that any kind of heavy lifting needed assistance by a man, with some almost going to the extent to state that women should refrain from lifting heavy weights because its either “not good for their body” or “doesn’t suit a woman.” Even though some women are still susceptible to hearing judgements like this till today, the strongwomen of the 1900s were able to tackle this flawed belief in the most epic way.

Thanks to, we came across these vintage photos of famous female body builders that were recognised for their strength and resilience. It is important to note that cameras in that day and age took much longer to take a picture than they do presently – these women held these incredible poses showing off their gains for quite some time!

1. Louise Leers, 1930s

Even though she looks incredibly strong, Louise Leers was actually a 4’10 trapeze artist who was very petite before she began body building!

2. Katie Sandwina aka The Lady Hercules

The Great Sandwina lifting her husband.

This Austrian strongwoman was born to circus strength performers and was given the name ‘Sandwina’ after performing an act whereby she lifted a ‘strongman’ weighing 300 lbs, called Eugen Sandow above her head. She herself weighed about 200 lbs at the time! Sometimes she would often lift her own husband and according to a reporter at that time, she would fling him over her shoulders.

3. Kate Roberts aka Vulcana The Muscular Beauty

Kate was a Welsh strongwoman who was awarded over 100 medals throughout her career for her performances. She was given the name ‘Vulcana’ as her stage name.

4. Laverie Valee aka Charmion, 1897

Laverie was an American strongwoman during the early 1900s who performed wearing Victorian street attire that involved her disrobing down to her acrobat leotards.

5. Iron Woman, 1905

Was a circus performer during the early 1900’s, although not much is known about her this image was one of the first to be publicized and titled “The Iron Woman.”

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