Posts Tagged ‘Female Pugilism

27
Feb
12

Female Slave as Boxer: The remarkable life of Sylvie Dubois

Female Slave as Boxer: The remarkable life of Sylvie Dubois!

Sylvie (Sylvia) Dubois, Born March 5, 1768, Credit: NYPL

Sylvie Dubois (Sylvia in some texts) was said to have lived to 122 years of age, and at 116 was memorialized in the book, A Biografy of the Slav Who Whipt her Mistress and Gand her Freedom by C. W. Larison.   

The text itself, written in 1884 was done so by a man who’d invented his own Phonic Orthography to “capture” language — and while portions of the original text can be read online at Google Scholar, it must be realized that the “lens” for C. W. Larison’s questions and interpretations were in accordance with late 19th century views of women and race.

Sylvie Dubois remains a fascinating figure and as noted in Boxing Historian Christopher James Shelton’s recent article, American slave boxer: Sylvie Dubois, she lived a remarkable life.

Shelton wrote that Sylvie Dubois grew up in New Jersey, becoming the property of a French businessman identified as a Mr. Dubois after her mother, Dorcas, failed to repay a loan.  Sylvie eventually came to work for Mr. Dubois in his tavern in Great Bend, Pennsylvania becoming as Shelton says, his “trusted partner” as well as the opportunity to earn money, but still — as a slave.  Using her quick intelligence and wit, and purportedly at 5’10” and over 200 pounds, she became invaluable as a bouncer and pugilist, fighting what Shelton calls, “impromptu” bare knuckle/wrestling bouts.

Sylvie, however, was still a slave, subject to the cruel abuses of her slave masters, which not only included Mr. Dubois, but his wife who was purportedly particularly hard on her.  In a what became a final showdown, Mrs. Dubois was said to have slapped Sylvie across the face for some infraction or another whereupon Sylvie is alleged to have cold-cocked her with one punch to the face.  Sylvie feared for her life, but most amazingly was offered a chance at freedom: Mr. Dubois would grant her freedom provided she got back to New Jersey.

As Shelton states in his article, after a difficult journey, she eventually found her way to the town of New Brunswick, New Jersey, where after reuniting with her mother, she was able to find work as a servant.  Her story of course does not end there!

For further information on Sylvie Dubois’ remarkable life please click on the following links:

Christopher James Shelton: American slave boxer: Sylvie Dubois

C. W. Larison: A Biografy of the Slav Who Whipt her Mistress and Gand her Freedom 

From the Princeton Press, January 26, 1884: Sylvia Dubois, 116 Years Old 

From MELUS,Vol. 20, No 2., a scholarly examination: The Peals of her Terrific Language by Michael C. Berthold

Special thanks to Christopher James Shelton for his insightful work in bringing Sylvie Dubois’ story to life.

30
Jan
12

Women Box!

Women Box!

Bertha Aracil, Photo: Sue Jaye Johnson

The specter of the debut of women’s boxing at the upcoming 2012 Olympics has led to a plethora of interest in the sport!

“Women who box love it for the same reason guys do, boxing requires intense physical and psychological discipline, the ability to overcome fear and anger.” – Morning Edition

Franchon Crews, Photo: Sue Jaye Johnson

This weekend NPR opened a series on women’s boxing which aired on Sunday’s Morning Edition. The piece is wonderfully affirming and I encourage everyone to listen to it and to read the accompanying article.

The first installment, entitled ‘I Am A Boxer’: Fighter In The Ring, Lady Outside It  includes sensitive interviews with boxer Bertha Aracil and other fighters vying for an Olympic berth at the upcoming Olympic Trials in Spokane, Washington next month.  The piece also gets to the heart of gender, an issue that continues to dog the place of women in the sport.  The series is co-produced by Marianne McCune and photographer Sue Jaye Johnson.

Link: ‘I Am A Boxer’: Fighter In The Ring, Lady Outside It (First installment)

Link: Why Would A Woman Box (Article published on WNYC’s website)

Sue Jaye Johnson’s video and photo essay, Bout Time in The New York Times Magazine section was also published yesterday and is another “must read” piece.

Link:  Bout Time

Oh, and in case you need any reminding, women have been boxing for a LONG, LONG time. The following is from Pierce Egan’s book Boxiana: Or Sketches of Ancient & Modern Pugilism, published originally published in 1830!




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© Malissa Smith and Girlboxing, 2010-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Malissa Smith and Girlboxing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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