Interesting Facts About Katie Brumbach: The Strongest Woman In The World

Strongmen around the turn of the 19th century usually grab the attention of most people interested in Physical Culture. Catherine Brumbach (“Katie”) was born with everything she needed to succeed in life, and she grew to be a beautiful, strong woman, a really strong woman. Her physical strength and beauty gave her an edge in a man’s world, making her the specimen of perfection.
Born Kate Brumbach in 1884 in Vienna, to Bavarian parents. Kate lived strength from an early age. Her parents were regular performers in the German circus circuit. Their act consisted of formidable and impressive feats of strength. Her father Philippe was said to be able to lift 500 pounds with one finger. Her mother was said to possess 15-inch biceps. Strength was in Kate’s blood. As the years progressed and Kate grew older, she became a feature in her parent’s routine.
Brumbach was the second oldest of 15 children whose parents were circus performers. Of Bavarian stock, Philippe, who was six feet six inches tall and weighed about 260 pounds with a 56 inch chest, and his wife, Johanna, whose biceps measured 15 inches, amazed European audiences with their feats of strength. Three daughters inherited the strength and talent of their parents and joined the act very young.
When she was two, Brumbach reportedly did hand stands on her father’s hands. She was trained in gymnastics and then added weightlifting to her regime when she hit adolescence. Brumbach wasn’t the strongest of her siblings, but her strength combined with her perfect proportions and natural beauty made her the main attraction.
The following are FIVE interesting facts about Katie Brumbach
1. Brumbach embraced her strength while maintaining her personal sense of femininity, and saw no contradiction between her love of painting her nails and her ability to deflect sledgehammer blows to the chest. Unlike other strongwomen of her era, she was never described in masculine terms, and the press paid as much attention to her hourglass figure as her prowess at casually bending horseshoes.
2. When Brumbach was signed to the Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1911, she was the star of a meet-the-press event* at Madison Square Garden, in which 10 physicians from all over the country were shipped in to publicly examine Brumbach’s physique. After declaring her stats, the examining physicians concluded that “In every way, according to her measurements, she is a perfect woman by all the accepted standards.”
3. Her championship of female strength was not confined to her own life circumstances, and Brumbach was an outspoken proponent of the women’s right to vote. In 1912, she became the vice-president of the 800-member Suffragette Ladies of the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and was sometimes referred to as Sandwina the Suffragette.
4. From the early 1900s until her retirement at the age of 64 in 1945, Sandwina toured the United States dazzling crowds with her impressive strength. Once she removed herself from the spotlight Sandwina opened a restaurant with her husband where she was known on occasion to delight patrons by breaking horseshoes, bending steel bars and occasionally hoisting her husband overhead. Showing that strength ran in her blood, Katie was highly influential in her son Theodore’s physical pursuits.
5. While touring around Europe, the strongwoman and her fellow performers happened to briefly go to New York. As a publicity stunt at the end of the act, she challenged anyone who dared to try to lift more weight than she did.
Eugen Sandow, the most famous bodybuilder of the time happened to be in the audience. No publicity manager could have ever conceived of a more perfect attraction. They matched each other pound for pound until Brumbach lifted a 300 pound bar bell over her head.
As a stunned audience witnessed, Sandow could only raise it to his chest. Brumbach proudly carried her victory with her everywhere by adopting the moniker “Sandwina,” a female derivative of Sandow.

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