These 3 Female Strength Pioneers Changed Lifting Forever

3 female strength pioneers that changed the way we look at lifting.

Public perception regarding female fitness has changed drastically over the past decade alone. In 2018, it is nothing to see a muscular woman with millions of followers being praised for a physique that would have been unthinkable through most of the 20th century. This perceptual change has been a long time coming.


For International Women’s Day last week, Barbend made a list of three women who were instrumental to the rise of female fitness in America.

1. Abbye “Pudgy” Stockton

Abbye was born in California in 1917, she earned her nickname early in life due to her shape, and started weight training around age 20 in order to try to resolve her unfortunate physique. Soon she was a regular member at Muscle Beach, putting on spectacles alongside legends like Joe Gold and George Eiferman. In her prime, Abbye was 115 lbs at 5-foot one-inch.

She pressed 100 lbs, snatched 105 lbs, clean and jerked 135 lbs, and organized some of the first sanctioned women’s weightlifting competitions in the USA. After World War II, she opened the first gym for women on Sunset Boulevard.


2. Katie Sandwina

Katie was born in Vienna, 1884, into a circus family. Noticing Katie’s aptitude for strength at an early age, her father trained her in strongman, and eventually began offering audiences prize money to defeat her in wrestling. Around the turn of the century, Katie move to NYC. Now fully grown at 6’1″ she was a regional spectacle. She famously beat male strongman performer Eugen Sandow in an overhead press with a 300lb dumbbell and achieved strongwoman immortality.

3. Elise Gillaine Herbigneaux

Gillaine was born in 1875 in Belgium. She grew up with a fascination for highly physical activities usually reserved for men. At the age of 16, she moved to Paris to pursue her passions for strength feats and wrestling. She achieved fame for feats like a 105 lb one-handed snatch, pressing a 110 lb barbell eight times, and defeating 40 other women in a wrestling contest.

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