This Is Why Black Women Wrestlers Are Missing From History Books
The documentary "Lady Wrestler: The Amazing, Untold Story of African-American Women in the Ring" will screen in New York City on Saturday, March 23, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Moving Image. For tickets and more information, click here.
The 82-minute documentary, which I directed, chronicles the little-known story of black female professional wrestlers who overcame tremendous odds to succeed in the male-dominated world of professional wrestling in the 1950s, '60s and '70s.
One reason why this story has been little-known for so long - until now - is that the women were often reluctant to talk about the wrestling business. The lady wrestlers were secretive when they were in the business, but especially after they left the sport.
In the documentary, wrestling legends Ethel Johnson and Ramona Isbell as well as the children of the late Marva Scott share their stories. Interestingly enough, both Ethel and Ramona chose not to talk about about the fact that they were wrestlers when they were in the business.
Ethel even shares that she even made a conscious decision to not tell her children that she was a wrestler. Ethel's daughter, Shelly, talks about how for the longest time, she didn't know her mother was a wrestler. She just assumed that her mother did some kind of work that required her to travel out of town.
One day when Shelly was a kid, she and her friends were playing with the TV on in the background and her mother came on TV in a wrestling match. And of course Shelly and her friends started jumping up and down and screaming in excitement.
Ramona was also reluctant to talk about the fact that she was a wrestler, although her children did ultimately find out.
Marva, however, not only told her children about the fact that she was a wrestler, she involved them in her training routine. In the documentary, Marva's adult children Kim Martin and James Black talk about how their mother would ride their bikes to build up her endurance. Marva would also wrestle with James to help her get ready for her matches in faraway places like Japan and Australia - worlds away from their hometown of Columbus, Ohio.
Marva would put a mattress in the basement and throw James around like a sparring partner. Kim talks about helping her mom make her elaborate costumes.
The African-American female wrestlers - like Wonder Woman and her double identity, Diana Prince - kept their globe-trotting adventures a secret from the people in their everyday lives.
For more information about "Lady Wrestler," visit Ladywrestlermovie.com.