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

Lerner/Graphic Universe. Aug. 2023. 136p. Tr $30.65. ISBN 9781728445656.
Gr 7 Up–The British suffragettes employed an exhaustive variety of tactics to gain visibility for the cause of granting women the right to vote. Among these were dramatic protests that involved violent clashes with police. Partly in response, suffragette leaders engaged the help of Edith Garrud, a jujitsu master, to teach them self-defense. Yes, that’s right, a woman well-educated in and capable of teaching the martial art of jujitsu in Edwardian-era England. Garrud ran a dojo in her home with her husband, and suffragette leaders, including the inimitable and dramatic Emmeline Pankhurst, gradually enlisted her support for their cause. Garrud’s support of the movement is timorous at first, but witnessing unfair judicial treatment of a domestic violence victim in her class and police brutality towards protestors brings Garrud, and readers, to fully embrace the necessity of self-defense in her societal moment. The Bodyguard Unit captures a well-documented but lesser-known piece of history with acumen, and subtly telegraphs the still relevant experience of employing radical means in an unjust system. One particularly clever method the comic employs is weaving images of primary sources (including a silent film) into the story, truly bringing its source material to life.
VERDICT Well-balanced and easy to understand, a unique and involving lens through which to consider an essential moment in modern history.

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