In April 1896, hardened military veteran US Sergeant Charles Walsh, in front of a crowd of 4,000 onlookers, turned tail and ran. Mere minutes earlier, during a round of equestrian fencing, he’d been hit so hard he’d been nearly knocked off his horse – so hard that his opponent’s sword was permanently bent backwards in a U shape. In response, Walsh did the honorable thing: jumped from his horse, claimed that the judge was cheating, and fled the scene, to the jeers of the massive crowd.
His opponent? A woman known as La Jaguarina, Queen of the Sword – an undefeated sword master who later retired only because she ran out of people to fight. Had she born 25 years later, according to the US Fencing Fall of Fame, she might be recognized as “the world’s first great woman fencer.” This week we tell the tale of this largely-forgotten heroine.