Friday, April 27, 2012
In 1876 in New York City, Harry Hill's bar did a booming business with most of the patrons coming to see the boxing matches Hill regularly featured. Always looking for a good opportunity to bring in new customers, Hill occasionally put on matches between women, as well as men. At 5' 7" tall and 164 pounds, Rose Harland (a "variety dancer," by trade) was one of the first to step into the ring to square off with Nelly Saunders (herself a boxer's wife) for a prize of $200 and a silver butter dish.
Both women were trained by male boxers, got into the ring wearing borrowed knickers or trunks, and clearly gave it everything they had, given the extent of their training. By the third and fourth rounds, however, they were slugging it out toe to toe, scoring twenty solid hits apiece in each round. The judge said the fight could have been called a draw, but that Saunders had outscored Harland overall by one point, so Harland only wound up with a consolation prize of $10 collected from the crowd. On the battlefield, on the mountaintop, in the boxing ring -- is there anything an in-your-face woman won't do? Um...no.
NOTE: While it's doubtful that Saunders checked her shiny nose in a mirror even before she climbed out of the ring, and if the fight outcome was decided by points, nobody got knocked out, the above illustration actually appeared in the Police Gazette after the fight. Since I couldn't locate a photo of Harland, I opted to post this instead to demonstrate how uncomfortable men are with the idea of in-your-face women. If the women must get in the ring and if they must duke it out successfully, the guys gotta make it look silly. Right? Whatever.