What fighting like a girl was all about in Georgian Era Britain —- Elizabeth “Lady Bare Knuckles” Stokes
Think that women’s boxing or MMA fighting is a recent development in fighting sports? Think again. From the 18th to early 19th century it was not uncommon for women to fight in the ring as well as men. Back then boxing was not the boxing of today, not by a long shot. Venues tended to be saloons, pubs, small arenas, or even open streets and back-alleys. Rules differed from venue to venue, but for the most part fights were done bare knuckled, and many fights were a no holds barred type setup. Some fights even included deadly weapons such as clubs, swords, and staves. Needless to say, injury and death was common.
One of the most famous female fighters in early 18th century Britain was Elizabeth Stokes (born Elizabeth Wilkinson), a mother and fighter whose career lasted mostly throughout the 1720’s. In 1722 she was challenged by Hannah Highfield for a prize of three guineas. Stokes accepted the challenge by offered a counter challenge,
“I, Elizabeth Wilkinson of Clerkenwell, who had earlier had some words with Hannah Hyfield, ‘challenged and invited’ her adversary to meet her on the stage for three guineas. Each fighter would hold half-a-crown in each hand and the first to drop the money would lose the battle”
Elizabeth won after a 22 minute fight, giving Hannah Hyfield a savage thumping that caused her to drop her coin. Later in the evening she won another fight against a woman named Martha Jones.
After the fight with Hannah Hyfield Stoke’s career took off, making her the most popular female fighter in Britain and earning her the name “Lady Bareknuckles”. After marrying her husand James Stokes, the couple often fought in paired and tag-team matches. Incredibly Stoke’s even fought men on a number of occasions, something that was rare in bareknuckle boxing. Even more incredibly, she trounced them every time, beating the crap out of them with her swift and powerful fists. Not only was she a master pugilist, Stokes was also skilled with weapons as well. She was known to be particularly skilled with the cudgel and short sword.
By the mid 19th century women’s fighting had come to a close as professional organizations, rules, and Victorian Era prejudices against women drove the sport underground and turned fighting into a gentlemen’s sport.
#THIS IS FREAKIN COOL AS SHIT #can we just note the last paragraph #’victorian era prejudices against women drove the sport underground’ #you’re saying ‘turned fighting into a gentleman’s sport’ but all i’m seeng is VICTORIAN LADY FIGHT CLUB#WHERE ARE THE NOVELS? GIVE ME NOVELS #MAKE THE LADIES KISS#MAKE THE LADIES TELL THEIR HUSBANDS THEY’RE OFF TO SEE THEIR SISTERS FOR TEA #MAKE THE LADIES SWAP TIPS ON HOW TO BANDAGE THEIR KNUCKLES AND CONCEAL BRUISES WITH POWDER #MAKE THE LADIES PASS EACH OTHER FLASKS OF BRANDY WHILE THEY’RE SITTING ON THE SIDELINES TENDING THEIR INJURIES AND WATCHING THE NEXT FIGHT#MAKE THE LADIES WEAR LOOSE BREECHES AND PRACTICAL RIDING BOOTS#MAKE THE LADIES COME FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE; MAKE A PICKPOCKET STRIKE UP A FRIENDSHIP SLASH RIVALRY WITH THE DAUGHTER OF A COUNTESS #MAKE THE LADIES KISS!!!!!!!!!!!!! #i’m fine. i’m fine. #history (via marthur)