|HESSIE DONAHUE, a
large and formidable American matron who once got so wild with a world heavyweight boxing
champion that she knocked him out. Quite how this unlikely lady and John L.
Sullivan, the "Boston Strong Boy', found themselves together in the same ring does
need a little explaining. It came about through her marriage to Charles Converse, a
man who ran a school for boxers in Worcester, Massachusetts.
In 1892, Converse was invited to join Sullivan in
an exhibition tour of theatres. Hessie went along and, to pep up the proceedings,
was asked to spar with Sullivan in a novelty item. The idea was that towards the end
of the performance, when the champion had dealt with all comers, he would announce that he
had been challenged by a woman!
As the crowd buzzed with this astonishing
news, Hessie would step into the ring in her full prize-fighting rig-out of blouse, skirt,
bloomers, long stockings and boxing gloves. She would then trade a few playful blows
with Sullivan until the curtain cam down. But one night this jolly tableaux got
rather out of hand. Sullivan threw a punch to Hessie's face that was far harder than
Riled by this departure from the script, the bruiser in bloomers
let rip with a right to Sullivan's jaw and the champion dropped unconscious to the floor
where he stayed for a disturbingly long time. The crowd roared its appreciation and
the punch with suitable theatrical touches, was kept as part of the act.
Written by unknown source, called "Great Sporting