The Glorious Gadgets of Edward William Barton-Wright: a Steampunk Feminist’s Perspective

The glorious gadgets of Edward Barton-Wright

The glorious gadgets of Edward Barton-Wright as illustrated in ‘Suffrajitsu’.

I recently wrote a review for two issues of a graphic novel: Suffrajitsu – Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons. One of the panels illustrated a room full of therapy machines, housed in a gym where Bartitsu is being taught. I found this detail most delightful because Edward Barton-Wright did actually invent and build several different types of therapy machines, built clinics, and was a physical therapist for the latter half of his career.

Edmund Barton-Wright demonstrates his blue light ray machine, circa 1905.

Edmund Barton-Wright demonstrates his blue light ray machine, circa 1905.

The illustration has several cabinets and electrical paraphernalia that resembles the images of a couple of Edmund Barton-Wright’s therapy machines. Sadly, as EBW wasn’t really recognized as a historically important person until late in the Twentieth century, there are few surviving photographs of these machines. He was using heat therapy, light therapy, radiation therapy, vibration therapy, and electrotherapy when all at the highest popularity, but his machines were of his own devising.

Light and electrical energy therapy machine designed by Edmund Barton-Wright.

Light and electrical energy therapy machine designed by Edmund Barton-Wright.

Other gadgets in the illustration remind me strongly of other therapy machines available around the same time. You wouldn’t see gadgets like this today, but these types of therapy are still used. Hydrotherapy was still popular in the Victorian & Edwardian eras, and has been since Roman times, and it is still popular today. Light therapy is still very important, particular for infants born with jaundice. Electrotherapy has lost some of it appeal; electric shock therapy is still in use but other forms of therapy and medication have mostly replaced it.

Below are some pictures of other gadgets used around the same time as Edmund Barton-Wright has his clinics. If you are interested in reading Suffrajitsu – Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons, you can find out more at suffrajitsu.com

Latest Physical Therapy Equipment Machine for Light Treatment  from a steel engraving from a German Reference book dated 1906.

Latest Physical Therapy Equipment Machine for Light Treatment from a steel engraving from a German Reference book dated 1906.

Doctor River and his Electro-therapy equipment in Paris.

Doctor River and his Electrotherapy equipment in Paris.

Electro-therapy treatment for arthritis in the 1900s.

Electrotherapy treatment for arthritis in the 1900s.

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3 Comments

Filed under Gadgets, Historical Personage, History, Steampunk, Steampunk Feminist

3 responses to “The Glorious Gadgets of Edward William Barton-Wright: a Steampunk Feminist’s Perspective

  1. There are quite a few photographs of Barton-Wright’s electrotherapy machines here: https://www.pinterest.com/psychicken/bartitsu/ .

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