I watched a documentary last weekend about women’s wrestling in the 1940’s and 50’s called Lipstick & Dynamite.

I won’t give a full movie review about it (for that you can check out Roger Ebert‘s 2.5 stars). Not a great documentary on wrestling itself, but it did give you a feeling for what the first females had to go through starting out in a sport dominated by men.

There were probably at least half a dozen women interviewed, all of which had worked for a promoter named Billy Wolfe, but the focus of the movie was on three particular women. One was an 84-year-old with the mouth of a sailor named Gladys “Kill ’em” Gillem. The other two were The Fabulous Moolah and Mae Young, who are known to younger fans due to their ongoing appearances in the WWE.

A few things I thought were interesting:

  • Unlike the men, who could work a particular territory for months at a time, the women had to constantly be on the move and were not able to stay in a territory for more than a match or two
  • Many states (like California and Illinois) had a ban on female wrestling
  • Many of the women interviewed had careers that spanned more than 20 yrs
  • Moolah claims to have been the women’s champion and undefeated for 29 yrs. Some of the other wrestlers disputed this, saying she had her own belt.
  • Moolah, Mae Young, and midget wrestler Diamond Lil were living in the same house together (??)
  • All of the women said that they don’t like the “T&A” shows that women’s wrestling has become. Promoters put women in the ring that look good and have no talent. Most of them also thought that the recent “gag” appearances of Moolah and Young in the WWE tarnished their reputations.

With many of them in their 80’s at the time of filming, and some that have since passed on (Moolah), the movie gives us a glimpse at some really “tough broads” that were pioneers in the industry.

Lipstick & Dynamite theatrical trailer: