Lady Hercules: the incredible story of the woman who could lift several men with one hand

Katharina Brumbach, also artistically known as Lady Hercules or Woman of Steel, was born in Austria in 1884 into a large circus family. She was recognized worldwide for her great strength, feats and her feminist activism. From 1911 to 1986, the Guinness Book of Records held the title “the strongest woman in the world”.

Since she was little, she liked to practice all kinds of sports, but she decided to become a wrestling fighter. When she was a teenager, she was 1.80m tall and weighed over 90kg. She had 17-inch biceps and 29-inch thighs.

The steel woman was born in Austria in 1884 into a large circus family. Photo: Millennium

How was the legend of Lady Hercules born?

His father, who was known in the circus world for lifting 225 kilos with one finger, he told the men in attendance that they could win a prize, 100 marks, if they beat his daughter in wrestling. Many disbelievers scoffed at the challenge and tried it, but ended up being ridiculed by the woman. No one ever managed to beat her. Thus was born the legend of Lady Hercules.

It was in one of those feats that he met the love of his life when he was around 16 years old. Max Heyman, a young 19-year-old circus acrobat, wanted to challenge her in a competition, as a strategy to relaunch his artistic career. The young woman did not hesitate, she took on the challenge and won.

They both fell in love, got married for 52 years and had two children.. The whole family dabbled in the art world, but there was a very popular number, in which she lifted her husband over her head with one hand and manipulated him as if she were a soldier, and he held the rifle. she.

Katie and Max became an inseparable couple on and off the circus ring. Photo: Instagram by @camps.Werner

What were the feats of “Lady Hercules”?

‘The Woman of Steel’ would bend iron bars, lift several men at once onto her chest, or break links of chains with her bare hands.

The most famous was known as “The Bridge of Power”: they placed a wooden structure on his body, similar to a bridge, and several men disguised as soldiers and centurions began to parade on it, some even on horseback.

“The Bridge of Power”: they placed a wooden structure on his body, and several men began to parade on it. Photo: @gwbbpodcast

His fame on the rise

In 1911, Lady Hercules and her entire family moved to New York. She got several hits in her professional career. Among them, being hired by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the largest and most famous of all circuses in the US.

At the height of her career, Katie challenged the renowned eugen sandowConsidered the father of bodybuilding or the “perfect male specimen”, for his body measurements and incredible strength. When it was time to lift a weight of 136 kg, Katie was able to lift him over her head with one arm, while Eugen only managed to lift him up to his chest..

From that moment, the woman adopted the name of Sandwina, in homage to her admired colleague Sandow. This feat was later included in the Guinness Book of Records, and was in effect for 75 years.

Katie teaches her son wrestling

“A glamorous goddess”

As part of a strategy to launch his career for good, 10 doctors from all over the country were summoned to publicly examine his physique. The experts concluded that “in every way, by their measures, it is a perfect woman respect to all accepted standards.

That same year, celebrity journalist and cartoonist Kate Carew wrote an article about her successful career and the struggle of women in society.

“Sandwina is by no means masculine and while her arms can lift 300lbs above her head, they are supple and smooth enough to wear in a ball gown. Not terribly muscular arms, just a little ripple under the skin, like mice playing on a mattress,” she described.

Katie had privileged genetics, talent, discipline and great determination. Photo:

What was your great contribution as a feminist?

In 1912, all of Sandwina’s strength turned to bravery, fortitude, and perseverance in social activism. At Madison Square Garden II where she had debuted, she performed publicly for the first time. suffragette society of the world of the circus, of which she was vice president and to which more than 800 women belonged.

The society called Suffragette Ladies of the Barnum & Bailey Circus worked for many years with the Woman’s Political Union to claim the rights of women in the United States.

These two institutions, along with many others, finally managed to In 1920, the national right to vote for American women was recognized.. At the age of 64, Lady Hercules decided to retire from the circus world.

“Lady Hercules, Katie Sandwina. A combination of strength, forms and feminine beauty”. Photo: Wikipedia

She and her husband opened a restaurant whose name was a tribute to their entire successful career: Katie Sandwina, World’s Strongest Woman, Bar and Grill. One of the main attractions of her was that from time to time the woman would do some of her old numbers.

Finally, in 1952, the strongest woman in the world died of cancer, but she will always be remembered for her story of overcoming, bravery and determination. For the whole world, Kati will always be a fighter for justice and equality..