Strongmen around the turn of the 19th century usually grab the attention of most people interested in Physical Culture. Almost everyone will know the name Eugen Sandow. Yet despite our preconceived notions that strength is an exclusively male pursuit, Physical Culture was in fact an all-encompassing movement that didn’t exclude based on gender. There were female performers as well, many of whom were stronger than their male counterparts. Society viewed these women with a suspicious eye. Was it possible to be strong and ladylike? Were they not too masculine? Katie Sandwina, once the ‘Strongest Woman in the World’ had to face many of these pressures. What’s more, she did it with a smile.
Is it a Christian’s duty to be strong and muscular? Does strength equate with Godliness? How should a man behave? These were just some of the questions that permeated the 19th and early 20th century in Victorian England and the United States. They were the questions at the forefront of a movement better known as Muscular Christianity. In the maiden article for this website, we briefly introduced the idea of Muscular Christianity but today we will look at it in greater detail.