Thursday, April 18

A smile and a Stout Parasol

Just in case any of you doubt the validity of my Unusually Stout Parasol, I was reading today about a woman who taught self defence classes in 1908 using a parasol or umbrella.

Although the woman known as "Miss Sanderson" was a prominent fencer and self defence instructor in Edwardian London, regrettably little is known of her life – including her first name. At some point in the early 1900s she married Pierre Vigny, who had begun his own career in London as the chief instructor at the Bartitsu Club.

One of the more unusual things about the Bartitsu club was that  women were allowed from the beginning; they were encouraged to take part in almost all the activities the men undertook, only the boxing aspect seems to have been discouraged for the ladies. Women were encouraged to train in jujitsu and the stick work as a form of self defence and a healthy form of physical culture and exercise. 

Miss Sanderson, who continued to use what was presumably her maiden name for professional purposes, became Vigny's assistant instructor when he opened his own school in Berner's Street during 1903. By 1908 she was teaching her own unique system of women’s self defence, based on Vigny's method but concentrating on the use of the umbrella and parasol.

As reported in "All-round Self-defence," by Captain H. Webb, Health and Strength, Dec. 1903, 433-434:

The Professor and his lady pupil are set upon by three Hooligans, whose number is afterwards increased. But so ably does the lady wield her umbrella and the Professor his walking-stick, that their assailants are defeated in their fell purpose.

Told you so.

Mme Vigny taught walking stick and parasol defence to ladies including Miss Baden-Powell, sister to Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement and advocate that "a smile and a stout stick will carry one through any difficulty."

Now I'm off to practice wielding my Unusually Stout Parasol.

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