Posts Tagged ‘Jack Dempsey

08
Aug
13

Another chapter done … a history of women’s boxing

Another chapter done … a history of women’s boxing

Dixie Dugan

Dixie Dugan, Comic Book #1, Issued July 2, 1942, one of several comic books during the war years that featured women as strong fighters.

Hattie Stewart, 1883

Hattie Stewart, 1883, published in the National Police Gazette. She was one of two fighters who were known as the Female John L. Sullivan. The other was Hattie Leslie.

The process of writing a book is humbling (as in the magnitude of the task), daunting (as in a HUGE undertaking), exciting (researching and finding tiny pearls are truly the cookies), maddening (as in losing my way) and ultimately immensely satisfying with the proviso that you see humbling.

Writing a history of women’s boxing which has to be teased out of endless newspaper stories, still images, and bits of surviving slim and distant memories, is particularly so.  I worry that I won’t get it right, or in delving into one subject or another, that I’ll be tickling my own fancy to the point where the random reader will exclaim “WTF” never to crack the book open again.

Fact checking is also difficult (see daunting), but one does find a rhythm and learns to use phrases such as “it has been said” or “it was dubiously reported” … and so on.

What’s extraordinary to me is that women have persevered in a sport that loved to hate them.

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, that meant that women didn’t have the chance to fight professionally so they took to the variety theater stage instead.

Hattie Stewart was one boxer who plied the boards in the era. She and another fighter named Hattie Leslie were both known as the “Female John L. Sullivan.”  The never did meet in combat, though they called each other out in the boxing press. Unfortunately, Hattie Leslie passed away in 1892 from a sudden illness, so the fight of the dualing female Sullivan’s never did happen.

It’s also amazing to me that the writer Djuna Barnes penned articles about boxing–both from the point of view of being a spectator (My Sisters and I at the Prizefights) and in two interviews: one with Jess Willard not too long after he defeated Jack Johnson in 1915 (Jess Willard Says Girls Will be Boxing For A Living Soon) and one with Jack Dempsey published in 1921 (Jack Dempsey Welcomes Women Fans).

I find I have favorites too among the women I am writing about.

Belle Martell loses license.SANJoseEveningNews.27May1940.Page4.googleBelle Martel, the first female boxing referee, is someone I just adore.

She was a vaudvillian who met her husband Art, a former boxer, during her show business career. As the business died out with the advent of Talkies, she and Art settled in Van Nuys, California. He started a gym and began training youngsters how to box. Before long, she was in there with him and the two of them became very well known for the quality of the amateur boxing shows they put on–but really it was all Belle.

By 1940 she’d been a trainer, a boxing announcer, a time keeper, and as of April 1940, a duly licensed referee by the state of California Athletic Commission. Unfortunately, the hue and cry among certain folks in the boxing establishment and the press caused the Commission to issue a new rule less than a month later forbidding women from officiating at men’s fights. It was truly a blow to her heart, but she persevered and along with her husband opened the Martell Arena–fondly known as Belle’s Arena.

Gussie FreemanI also love Gussie Freeman (sometime known as Loony) who fought against Hattie Leslie in 1892 shortly before Hattie’s death.

They had a four-rounder at a theater on Grand Avenue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, that was talked about for decades.

It was the kind of fight that tall tales were made for.

On the first telling Gussie, her blond hair in a tizzy, barely made it into the third round before the fight was called.

A second telling had the two of them nearly spent,  after going four hard rounds that ended in a draw.

And by the next telling–Gussie soundly defeated Hattie in the fourth with a resounding knock out blow!

Whatever the real outcome of the bout, it gave Gussie, a rope maker on the docks at Newtown Creek, the chance to travel as far west as Chicago when she signed to fight in Hattie Leslie’s show. Gussie also earned enough money to open a bar for a while, until with the money gone, she went back to the ropewalk. Along the way she made a lot of people smile and fifty years after her fight, it was still fondly remembered.

I’ve got a way to go–and a hard deadline coming up, but when I feel overwhelmed by it all, I just think of the sheer nerve of those women and push on.

They are truly my heroines–every last one.

01
Dec
10

Champions

Champions

“You know what a champion is? A champion is someone who’s ready when the gong rings – not just before, not just after – but when it rings.”  – Jack Dempsey

The Times of India is covering a story on the 11th Women’s Boxing Championship that will be held in Thrissur, India.  Participants have started at their training camp in preparation for the first round of bouts on December 4th.  This championship shall set the stage for selecting the Indian national team that will go on to fight in the 2012 Olympics.

Many young Indian women are finding their way into boxing as a means of elevating their status — and getting themselves and their families out of poverty.  This is not so different from the reasons many young men and women have found their way into sport in the United States.  And let’s face it, while we think of it as a sport, in my opinion boxing is much more than that.  It is about heart and facing the kind of fear that can otherwise cripple a person.

A champion in the ring is a person who understands that and overcomes it.  Win or lose the mere fact of getting in the ring counts for something.  So, if you are fighting today, think about what Jack Dempsey said and be ready when the bell rings.

The New York Times wrote about the phenomenon of women’s boxing in India here.  It is worth the read.




May 2020
M T W T F S S
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 3,843 other followers

Girlboxing Now! on Twitter

@Girlboxingnow

Share this blog!

Bookmark and Share
free counters
Blog Directory

Blog Stats

  • 784,063 hits

Twitter Updates

  • RT @PreetBharara: Wouldn’t mind a real mayor eitherThe Wit and Wisdom of the Ring 14 minutes ago
  • RT @keithboykin: So here’s what happened today. The NYPD arrested me at 96th Street and West Side Highway while I was taking photos and vid…The Wit and Wisdom of the Ring 24 minutes ago
  • RT @s_phia_: NYC Legal Stuff: Seriously don't talk to cops once you get arrested. Don't say you didn't do XYZ whatever. No bullshit chit c…The Wit and Wisdom of the Ring 25 minutes ago
  • RT @ALT_uscis: The America we want: Flint sheriff took his riot gear off and marched with protesters instead. https://t.co/6URGXrN74fThe Wit and Wisdom of the Ring 30 minutes ago
  • RT @JamilSmith: When the president encourages police violence and also calls the press the “enemy of the people,” this is what happens.The Wit and Wisdom of the Ring 34 minutes ago
  • RT @tkerssen: Share widely: National guard and MPD sweeping our residential street. Shooting paint canisters at us on our own front porch.…The Wit and Wisdom of the Ring 35 minutes ago
  • RT @ava: For those of you who think you know all about how things escalate during a protest. https://t.co/1DgADqFwJiThe Wit and Wisdom of the Ring 2 hours ago
  • RT @RepJerryNadler: This is a horrendous, possibly lethal act by the @NYPDnews and it demands immediate action to hold the driver and any o…The Wit and Wisdom of the Ring 2 hours ago
© 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.

%d bloggers like this: