The Bodyguard Unit: Edith Garrud, Women’s Suffrage, and Jujitsu

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The Bodyguard Unit: Edith Garrud, Women’s Suffrage, and Jujitsu is a fascinating story of history most people won’t know. It’s written by Clément Xavier, illustrated by Lisa Lugrin, and translated from the French by Edward Gauvin. It’s also surprisingly timely.

Edith Garrud was a jujitsu instructor who wound up teaching suffragettes self-defense. (She was one of the first female martial arts instructors outside of Asia.) They were protesting the prime minister of the time ignoring his campaign promise to grant women suffrage, a campaign led by Emmeline Pankhurst. The women were sometimes attacked by people who called them agitators.

Edith’s husband William also was a teacher, but one who was a product of his times, with qualms about Edith’s outreach. As shown here, she sometimes has to fight him, particularly when it comes to teaching women to defend themselves from abusive husbands.

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In this story, there’s a lawsuit and political cartoons and an early movie and secret missions, all told through clear art and friendly characters. We know that these women are on the right side of history, and it’s a refreshing read to see some of the things they have to do to get there.

There are a couple of short historical notes after the story and a timeline of Edith’s life. I wanted to know more about her relationship with her husband, and what happened to him isn’t mentioned. But he is only a supporting character here, as it’s very much Edith’s story. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

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