Even though oldtime strongmen are the ones who are most recognized for their incredible power and ability to execute extraordinary feats of strength, many strongwomen have also performed in circus shows, music halls and carnivals on a regular basis throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, showcasing their strength.
They did everything old strongmen did, so it’s only fair to pay a tribute to Top 5 old-time Strongwomen.
5. Miss Apollina
Miss Apollina, born Elise Gillaine Herbigneaux, was a strongwoman from Belgium born in 1875. Even as a little girl, Elise took part in games which were considered to be just for men. At 15, Elise already practiced feats of strength and imitated strongmen, building great strength gradually. When she turned 16, Miss Apollina left her home and moved to Paris to lift weights and practice wrestling in the Arasse Gymnasium, a meeting place for many Paris amateurs. She became famous for her wrestling skill while touring as an amateur wrestler and soon enough she managed to take the world champion title after winning 40 matches against other women.
Some of her most popular feats of strength included dancing with 550 pounds weight on her shoulders, snatching 105 pounds using one hand, throwing a 45 pounds weight and catching it by the rim, and many others.
4. Martha Farra
Martha Farra, better known as Iron Martha who weighed just 115lbs takes the forth place. She was born in Austria in 1903 to circus acrobats parents, so she had a favorable predisposition for this line of work. She was a capable performer of strongman acts, like lifting a 3500lbs platform off the floor and lifting young on a platform.
She was very strong-willed and confident, so it’s not a wonder she compared herself against Louis Cyr “who could lift 2 tons with his back, while she was able to lift 1,700 kg while weighing 100kg less”, as she once said. During her performances, Martha would bend steel, horse shoes and even scrolled steel using her mighty arms.
3. Ada Asha
Ada Asha was born only 3 years after Martha Farra, in 1906 in Ohio. Even though she stood only 5″ tall, that didn’t stop her from becoming the strongest version of herself. She was well known for performing dangerous feats of strength. One of those involved a 8500 pounds truck that rolled over a board on her stomach. In another situation Ada Asha found herself in a fight against a crocodile which managed to bite her legs, arms and jaw.
Asha also used to lift a horse placed on a wood platform, had a concrete stacked on her abdomen and then broken by her husband Al Szasz with a sladgehammer. Being a great wrestler, Ada Asha also wrote three books on self defense and judo in collaboration with her husband. In one of her wrestling matches, Ada accidentally fell out of the ring which resulted in a spinal injury that took her almost two years to recover from. She was disabled for all that time and claims that she recovered successfully only because of her husband, who massaged her relentlessly for five hours every day.
Athleta Van Huffulen was born in 1868 in Belgium, most famous for her strength and beauty (by standards of those times). Her performing career started at the age of 18 when Athleta amazed audience by lifting audience members, horses, barbells and bending spikes and horseshoes. Some years later she left Belgium and toured Europe and USA, performing various feats of strength. By this time she became amazingly strong and was able to dance while holding three men on her shoulders or even carry four adult males on her shoulders who were hanging from a barbell.
After she decided to leave the stage and settle down with her husband in a small town in Belgium, Athleta’s daughters replaced her on the stage at the Folies Bergere in Paris. Some of her most famous records include lifting a 204lbs weight overhead using only one arm, 190lbs two arms jerk, 113lbs one arm snatch and many more.
The most famous strongwoman, The Great Sandwina. For the purpose of this article we’ll focus on her spectacular strength power and feats, but for more biographical information on Sandwina make sure to check out this blog post.
Apart from defeating Sandow in a weightlifting contest, Sandwina was involved in all sorts of difficult acts of strength. Instead of a dumbbell, she used her husband who weighed 165 pounds for overhead one arm lifts, bent press style. With two hands, Sandwina could lift more than 220 pounds overhead.
She liked to throw 30-pound iron ball in the air before catching it by the back the neck, keep still and steady while maintaining 14-persons carousels on her back and finally, resisting the force of four horses. What a truly amazing performer!
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