SANDWINA – Woman of Steel

sandwina-the worlds-strongest-woman

The topic of iron-strong women has been covered previously here, with the beguiling Charmion and the mighty Minerva being featured formerly. However one name that should never be omitted from the records of curious history is Sandwina, a woman who at her peak was perhaps the most physically powerful person walking the planet earth.

The mighty Sandwina was born as Kate Brumbach in 1884 in Vienna, Austria to Bavarian parents. Her parents were circus strength performers of rather hearty proportions in their own right. Her father Philippe was said to possess a barrel chest of 56 inches and her mother Johanna had muscle laden biceps measuring over 15 inches. Together the pair of prodigious physical prodigies sired fourteen children.

Kate’s three sisters Barbara, Eugenia and Marie possessed great physical strength and performed alongside their parents in power demonstrations. Kate, however, was gifted with strength unparalleled by her siblings and would be the only one to go on to spectacular fame.

Kate’s natural strength came from her lineage and physical proportions.  In adolescence Kate stood just over six feet tall and weighed 187 pounds. She honed her natural abilities through intensive exercise and in her heyday was known for her bulging 17 inch biceps and 26 ½ inch thighs. Kate initially displayed her muscular girth to the paying patrons of the circuses her father contracted with. She was initially a wrestler of men and famously offered 100 marks to any man who could best her. According to legend, she never lost her bet and even gained a husband after soundly thrashing a young man by the name of Max Heymann. Heymann thought tussling with a woman would be a rather delightful way to earn 100 marks.  But by his own account he recalled only entering the ring, a blue sky and being carried away from the ring by Kate like a prize. The couple remained married for 52 years.

Kate appeared on the world stage quite suddenly while visiting New York. In a promotional stunt and after boasting of her strength, Kate made an open challenge daring anyone to lift more weight than she. To her surprise, and to the surprise of those assembled, none other than the father of powerlifing and bodybuilding Eugene Sandow took Kate up on her challenge.

Sandow was a man carved of granite.  Indeed, he had sculpted his body to resemble the statues of the old gods he saw as a child. He was considered the most physically gifted man in the world and Kate was certain that she had made a grave error in judgement. Still the contest began as Kate began lifting increasingly heavy weights and Sandow, subsequently, lifted those she was done with. This went on for some time, until Kate hoisted the unholy sum of 300 pounds above her head with one hand. Sandow could only raise the weight to his chest and Kate was declared the winner. It was shortly thereafter that Kate adopted the name Sandwina – a feminine derivative of ‘Sandow’ – though it is unclear if this action was a tribute or a taunt.

From then on Sandwina was known exclusively for her feats of strength. She was known to routinely juggle 30 pound iron spheres and press her 165 pound husband above her head using one arm. Some of her more famous feats involved lifting horses, maintaining carousels of 14 persons on her shoulders and carrying a half ton of cannons on her back. In between all of that, she also bore a son, Theodore Sandwina.

Sandwina did the bulk of her touring in the United States and was still performing with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus at the age of 57 in 1941. At the age of 64, Sandwina retired from touring and opened a restaurant with her husband in New York. On occasion she was still known to delight patrons by breaking horseshoes, bending steel bars and on the rare occurrence by hoisting her husband skyward. Her son Theodore had inherited his mother’s formable strength and grew to 6 foot 2 and 200 pounds. He used his impressive strength and size to become a champion boxer and retired with a record of 46 wins -38 of those by knockout.

On January 21, 1952, Sandwina lost her first and only wrestling bout to cancer. While cancer won and claimed her life, it could not take away her mark on history or her title of Strongest Woman in the World.



  • Reply October 7, 2008



  • Reply October 8, 2008


    What a lovely and touching story, very well written. I love how she met her husband!

  • Reply October 9, 2008

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Thank you both for your comments. Indeed, she was a remarkable woman – as was her husband, one would wager.

  • Reply October 9, 2008

    Lady Lavona

    I haven’t stopped by in a while…I like the new layout! I’ve never left a comment before, so I wanted to take a moment to tell you I really enjoy stopping by to read your blog! Stop by and visit my Cabinet of Curiosities sometime!

    Warm Regards,
    xo Lavona

  • Reply October 9, 2008

    J Tithonus Pednaud


    I have happened across your Etsy page in the past and I am pleased to know you are an occasional guest.

    Thank you for visiting and commenting. I’ll be certain to add your site to my links section soon.

    ~ J. Tithonus Pednaud

  • Reply October 19, 2008


    Interesting story, great blog!

  • Reply November 11, 2008


    Thanks! Nice post.

  • Reply January 17, 2009

    JD from Hoeno

    You’ve got a heck of a site here. I like how the pages I’ve seen aren’t that long or that short. Just right. Interesting that the son took Sandwina as his last name (If I read that correctly?).

  • Reply February 1, 2009

    Gary Sides

    As January was coming to a close in 1909 on a chilly Sunday night in Sioux City,Iowa at the Orpheum Theater, Katie Sandwina was performing her act of picking up her husband on stage and effortlessly tossing him around like he was just a baby. When the Act was over, Katie walked over to the German Lutheran Hospital up the street and gave birth to her new son, Theodore. MMe Sandwina was then described by the hospital as probably the most perfect woman physically in the world.

  • Reply March 19, 2009

    peter tomkins

    unbelievable, and bit unnerving a woman was the strongest person on earth!

  • Reply April 19, 2009

    A scientist

    Not to be picky,author,but you are the only one saying sandwina lifted 300 lb with one hand-none of the other sources say that.Could you cite evidence please?

  • Reply April 21, 2009

    A scientist

    I should mention that my previous comment only said that I doubt Sandwina lifted 300 lb with one hand.I do not doubt her ability to lift 300 lb,but I doubt that she could do so single handedly.

  • Reply April 21, 2009

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    A Scientist,

    Take your pick at the source. Numerous New York papers covered the Sandow challenge and documented it accordingly and the number has been noted in numerous books and articles since. I don’t see what’s so unbelievable, Arthur Saxon lifted 370 lbs in Stuttgart in 1905 with a single hand.

  • Reply April 29, 2009

    A scientist

    Ah,I see.Thanks for clarification.How about you do Paul Anderson sometime,he was a great weightlifter.

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  • Reply June 3, 2010

    susan j. sager

    I just so enjoy having stumbled upon this site. Your articles on these people are noteworthy and well written (although at times I think you could use spellcheck and someone to edit a little better). Hooray that I have “found” you. And thanks for establishing this site.

  • Reply June 23, 2010


    I met a man in Europe. When I told him I was from New York he begged me to please help him find his long lost relative Katarina Brumbach. He said she was in the guiness book of world records under the name Sandwina Baldwina. I looked for the name and found this site.

    He is looking for his next generation family. His name is Rudolph Brumbach. I have his telephone number and address. if anyone can help me find his family please contact me.

    • Reply March 3, 2016

      Kathy Barton

      Hello ~ My name is Kathryn Sandwina Barton. My father was Katie’s other son’s (Al Sandwina, which he later changed to Alfred Sanders and became an actor in Australia) stepson. My dad took Al’s last name, and ours is the only family with the last name of Sandwina, as Ted, to the best of our knowledge, did not have children. Al did have a son (after he and my grandmother went separate ways) with whom my father is in contact. My father’s contact info is: He is always interested in furthering his research on his family history. He remembers Katie Sandwina and her husband Max well.

  • Reply November 1, 2010

    spindler j

    Sandwina war eine vorfahrin meiner mutter,
    unsre familie reist heute noch mit dem circus durch bayern
    und sind heute noch bekannt als sehr starke menschen,,,,
    bin sehr stolz darauf!!!!

  • Reply November 1, 2010

    spindler j

    01578/4000540 danke !!

  • Reply March 3, 2011

    Robin Coleman

    Great article and site! I’m very proud to have been likened to the great Sandwina through my career as a strongwoman, nice to see such a fitting tribute!

  • Reply April 1, 2011


    I love her!

  • Reply May 30, 2011


    Women 1. Men 0!

  • Reply December 27, 2011


    i love lifting weights and everything and this woman is impressive. i am a female weight lifter myself, it’s lovely how a woman can be this strong! And the fact that she beat Eugene Sandow, man. What an inspiration she is.

  • Reply January 22, 2012

    Peter Neumeyer

    Hallo Mr. Pednaud,
    this is an impressive article about Kate Sandwina.
    Years ago I read an autobiography of Max Schmeling (“Erinnerungen”,Frankfurt/M.-Berlin-Vienna 1977). Max wrote that, years before he became heavyweight champion, he was asked by Mr. and Mrs. Sandwina to give their son boxing instructions. He did so and travelled for some weeks with the circus. It is interesting to read in Your article, that Kate Sandwina`s son really became a successful boxer.
    With kind regards from Germany
    Peter Neumeyer

  • Reply February 21, 2012


    And I thought I was strong! I’m 5’4″, woman, bench 250.

  • Reply March 13, 2012


    it’s unbelievable 2 believe dat there was once a woman as strong as dat, why dont u use her bio in an home theater

  • Reply May 2, 2012


    I love that family members of these special people are finding each other through these articles! What a wonderful legacy for you, Mr. Pednaud!

  • Reply October 11, 2012

    Possum Maria Krazytess

    My hero :)

  • […] Sandwina (real name Kate Brumbach) came by her astonishing strength honestly—she was born into a family of performing strength […]

  • Reply June 2, 2013


    She had a bar and grill on Cypress Hills Street just about on he border between Ridgewood and Glendale, Queens N.Y.

  • Reply December 13, 2013

    mengobati ejakulasi dini

    I enjoy what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the great works guys I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

  • Reply September 15, 2014


    Hooray to the strong woman. One giant leap for woman kind.

  • Reply January 14, 2015

    Katie Sandwina

    […] You can find more on Sandwina here. […]

  • […] into a family of Austrian circus performers, Katharina Brumbach performed feat-of-strength acts throughout her childhood. At over six feet tall and weighing 187 […]

  • […] into a family of Austrian circus performers, Katharina Brumbach performed feat-of-strength acts throughout her childhood. At over six feet tall and weighing 187 […]

  • […] into a family of Austrian circus performers, Katharina Brumbach performed feat-of-strength acts throughout her childhood. At over six feet tall and weighing 187 […]

  • Reply March 3, 2016

    Kathy Sandwina Barton

    Katie Sandwina had two sons, Alfred and Ted. Ted boxed mostly in Europe; Al became an actor, changed his name to Sanders, and emigrated to Australia where he became well-known on a soap opera (I believe it was a soap opera). My father was, for a time, Al’s stepson and took the last name of Sandwina as his own. Al later had a son after he had changed his name to Sanders, and Ted, as far as we know, did not have any children, so our family is the only one with the last name of Sandwina. Whenever someone asks the origins of our name, it’s fun to tell the story. The Guinness World Book of Records came in handy proving it to our friends as kids. :)

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