‘The Sandow Girl’, c. 1906

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Source: The Sketch, 2 May (1906), 69.

In the early 1900s, a travelling vaudeville show known as ‘The Dairymaids’ briefly toured across Great Britain and North America. As part of the performance, every night would see the emergence of ‘Sandow Girls’ replete with mock dumbbells and form fitting clothing. They were of course, named after the famed Prussian physical culturist Eugen Sandow, covered previously on this website.

Was this a cynical attempt to capitalise on physical culture’s appeal or a genuine expression of interest in movement? I’ll let you decide.

For anyone with an interest, a synopsis of the show was kindly provided by The Guide to Musical Theatre

Winifred and Peggy are the `Dairymaids’ of the title. In fact, they are nothing of the sort, but are merely going through the motions on a model dairy farm run by Lady Brudenell who has ideas on The Forming of the Youthful Mind. While the good lady is away, her nephews Sam and Frank arrive and begin to dally with the heroines. In the other corner, the servant Joe Mivens is making his advances to the pert maid. Now Lady Brudenell arrives home, bringing with her a fourth pair of sweethearts — her ward, Hélène and Captain Leverton — and angrily returns her errant protegées to the confines of Miss Penelope Pyechase’s boarding school.

After a brief glimpse at the shipboard quarters of the nautical nephews, the scene moves to the gymnasium of the school where the lads arrive, disguised as schoolgirls, to indulge in more fun, more love making, songs and dances until all is sorted out matrimonially.

To be fair, I would see this in theatres if it ever returned. Too few musicals incorporate gymnasiums!

As always…Happy Lifting!


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