Posted On:5/05/2009 11:25am
"La Jaguarina" was close to being a 19th century WMA superhero, complete with a fancy costume and "secret identity".
She was born in 1859 under the more prosaic name of Ella Hattan. Of humble Midwestern origins, she would later tell journalists all sort of tall tales about her family's noble Spanish heritage. As a young woman she became a professional actress and also began training in a wide range of fencing styles with Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, who was known as "the Sword Prince" and as "the modern D'Artagnan". Monstery set about making her into the best swordswoman in the world, and he appears to have succeeded.
During the 1880s and early '90s, "La Jaguarina" was the undisputed (and only) US womens' champion in the bizarre sport of mounted broadsword fencing. An expert horsewoman as well as a mistress of the sabre, knife and foil, and heavier and stronger than most of the men she faced in combat, she took on dozens of male opponents in both mounted and unmounted fencing contests. She also established a successful physical culture school in Baltimore.
Retiring the Jaguarina identity sometime in the early 20th century, she returned to the stage as Ella Hattan and lived the rest of her days as a supporting actress specializing in comedy roles.
If she had been born a quarter of a century later, at the time when competitive fencing was becoming established in the USA, Ella Hattan might have been recognized as the first great American swordswoman. However, the modern fencing establishment has all but forgotten her.
For more on Jaguarina, see http://usfencinghalloffame.com/index...=165&Itemid=72
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Bartitsu: the Gentlemanly Art of Self Defence (est. 1899)
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