Philip Astley first pegged out his circular 'ride' on the banks of the Thames in 1768 and so laid down the foundations of the modern circus. Performing feats of trick riding with his wife Patty Jones, little did he realise that before long women would become a dominant force in the circus. Sawdust Sisterhood explores how the circus empowered women and gave them the opportunity to compete and succeed as performers in their own right in an otherwise masculine world.
Drawing upon historical news reports and contemporary interviews, the book explores the lives of female circus performers and focuses upon several of the more well-known artistes from across two centuries of circus, including; Madame Saqui, the renowned French wire-walker of the early nineteenth century; Nellie Chapman, the Victorian 'Lion Queen' of Wombwells's Menagerie and Circus; and Katie Brumbach, otherwise known as Sandwina, perhaps the most famous Strongwoman of the twentieth century. Sawdust Sisterhood acknowledges the role of the female circus performer across the centuries.