The amazing 'strong-women' of the early 1900s

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, a new breed of women started to emerge from the depths of circus tents around the world: the strong-woman. These women quickly drew large crowds of circus lovers who were enamored and amazed by these women who seemed to have 'god-like' strength.

There were various types of strong-woman acts, but the most typical consisted of breaking or bending metal objects, juggling cannonballs, and lifting barbells, people and animals. Other acts like 'resistance artists' were also very popular, in a resistance routine strength would be displayed by pulling a large amount of weight using certain parts of their body. The teeth were a popular choice for this. Lastly, some acrobatic acts were also considered acts of strength. Many of these ladies were also able to pursue careers as stunt-women.

Strong-woman acts became staples for circuses and a few of them rose to celebrity status. One of the most well known ladies of strength was Joan Rhodes. She first started out as a cabaret act and variety hour performer, later landing appearances with Bob Hope. Rhodes was known for bending iron bars, ripping telephone directories and even lifting boxer Ewart Potgeiter who was believed to weigh close to 400 lbs.

In present day our strong-women now compete in body-building, Crossfit, and the World's Strongest Woman competition which is broadcasted annually on ESPN.

To this day, the ideas of femininity and masculinity are still fairly separate. Despite that fact, we have come closer to accepting that gender identity is more of a blurred line than the cookie cutter parameters we once put around what defines a man or a woman. The fact that these women were challenging what is beautiful and what is expected of a woman almost 200 years ago is truly impressive.

See the fascinating and sometimes bizarre images below:

15 PHOTOS
Vintage photos of Strong-women
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Vintage photos of Strong-women
(Original Caption) Strongwoman demonstrates her physique. (Back view). Undated photograph.
Strongwoman Ivy Russell lifts a bar bell loaded with heavy weights. (Photo by Hulton-Deutsch/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)
A circus strongwoman balances a piano and pianist on her chest, circa 1920. (Photo by FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Self-proclaimed world's strongest woman Marta Farra, of Austria, takes on sixteen young women in a tug-of-war, USA, circa 1925. (Photo by Fotograms/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
March 1950: Strongwoman Joan Rhodes bends an iron bar between her teeth. (Photo by George Konig/Keystone Features/Getty Images)
March 1958: Glamorous strongwoman Joan Rhodes exercises her strength whilst hoovering in her flat in Hampstead, north London. (Photo by Ken Harding/BIPs/Getty Images)
March 1958: Glamorous strongwoman Joan Rhodes apprehends a would-be burglar in her flat in Hampstead, north London. (Photo by Ken Harding/BIPs/Getty Images)
March 1958: Glamorous strongwoman and model Joan Rhodes of Hampstead, north London, bends an iron bar with ease, using her teeth. (Photo by Ken Harding/BIPs/Getty Images)
March 1958: Glamorous strongwoman and model Joan Rhodes of Hampstead, north London, bends an iron bar with ease. (Photo by Ken Harding/BIPs/Getty Images)
8th April 1958: Men, working on the site of Quaglino's new banqueting rooms, look on in amazement as strong-woman Joan Rhodes demonstrates her strength by lifts one of their co-workers. She is appearing in cabaret at Quaglino's restaurant and decided to visit the men working next door. (Photo by Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
8th April 1958: Men, working on the site of Quaglino's new banqueting rooms, look on in amazement as strong-woman Joan Rhodes demonstrates her strength by bending an iron bar. She is appearing in cabaret at Quaglino's restaurant and decided to visit the men working next door. (Photo by Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images)
11th January 1973: Strongwoman Maria McArd pulling a 12-ton lorry with her teeth. (Photo by Ian Tyas/Keystone Features/Getty Images)
18th August 1953: Stuntwoman Connie Tilton, tough girl of British films, swings a man round on her shoulders. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
11th August 1955: Larger-than-life Ewart Potgieter balances on strong woman Jean Rhodes. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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