• History of Strength Sports

Minerva the strongwoman

A mild, sweetnatured woman, but when- ever she heard anyone refer to women as the weaker sex, she’d get real mad and it was everybody’s cue to beat it - Harry Shelland (1931) - reflecting on meeting a young Minerva years before.

Early Life

Born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1865, she entered a gym at age seven and “took a fancy for lifting;” and she could “manipulate fifty and seventy- five pound dumbells with ease.” She was hired to teach gymnastics and exercise at age 15, which she did for three years, but then she met Charles P. Blatt in 1887. He was an American professional strongman, who asked her to return to America with him and go on the stage circuit. Shortly after her arrival in America, Richard K. Fox (local businessman and owner of the Police Gazette) suggested she take the stage-name “Minerva.” She said Fox “put me in a contest between fourteen other strong women and I outlifted them all. He then backed me for $1,000 and I have been a protege of his ever since" - An interview for the Mirror, of Manchester, New Hampshire.

Lifting accomplishments

Minerva and Blatt travlled around north America for around 20 years performing feats of strength. This included several seasons with PT Barnums circus and

circuses in Europe and South America. Minerva defeated the great Victorine in 1892 to find fame by "lifting heavy weights and catching cannonballs" She is credited with a 3,000lb back lift (18 men, each weighing 150lbs each) at theBijou Theatre, N.J.on April 15th,1985. She had a "700lb lift from the floor with two hands, and a one hand OH press of 100 pounds.” She could also stand with her feet in a bucket and lift a 300 pound barrel of lime to her shoulders and break horseshoes, and to catch 24 pound cannonballs shot from a cannon.

Mysteries and later life

There is still some mystery around Josephine's real name, where and to who she was actually born. In some reports she appears as Josie Wohlford from Hamburg and others credit her to have been the daughter of a prominent Dr. Schauer from New Jersey. There is also controversy over her later years where she is suddely no longer listed as Blatt's wife in some reports.

However we do know thatMinerva retired in 1910, and reportedly spent her remaining years in Perth Amboy, New Jersey and Tottenville, New York, where she invested successfully in real estate.

She died on September 1, 1923. A true oldtime strength Legend

Source: Iron Game History; Volume One, number two

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