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Ethel Brown
G.L.O.R.Y. Legend Of The Ring

In a career that spanned the late-40s to the mid-50s, Ethel Brown was a trailblazer in the sport of women's wrestling. Back in a time when the ring world was ruled by men, Ethel was one of the few ladies who traveled around the country showing fans that women were just as qualified to grapple as their male counterparts. Ethel's career started at 18 years old...when she went from a screaming, ringside fan to an inside-the-ropes competitor within a matter of months. What followed was a whirlwind of tough matches, awesome victories, grueling defeats and, of course, the injuries. Ethel was recently inducted--and deservedly so--into wrestling's Cauliflower Alley Club. Ethel Brown

Ethel Brown, a pioneer in the world of women's wrestling, was as tough in the ring as she was beautiful.

After wrestling, Ethel trained to become a dialysis nurse...a position which she enjoyed for more than twenty years.

Ethel has Cora Combs' in pain as she works over her legs and back.

Ethel Brown was one of the first ladies to prove that a wrestler could be tough in the ring...and a knockout outside of it.

Ethel with the legendary June Byers.

Considering that Ethel's first career was bending and stretching people into submission, it's ironic that her following career involved healing them.

Ethel backstage in Clarksburg, West Virginia.


Ethel Brown's Profile...

  • Height: 5' 2"
  • Weight: 130
  • Hair: Auburn
  • Eyes: Brown
  • Hometown: Columbus, Ohio (USA)
  • Currently Residing: New Hope, Pennsylvania (USA)

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  • Career In Ring: 1948-1957 (8 Years)

  • How It Started: I attended wrestling matches in Columbus, Ohio every week and I always had a seat behind Emerson Davis, sports writer for the Columbus Journal. Although we became fairly good friends, he must have resented the abuse he got from me when I would get excited about a match or a decision the referee had made that I disagreed with. He asked me one night if I had ever thought about getting in the ring to fight instead of wasting my time fighting outside. He also suggested that Billy Wolfe was a good friend of his and he could set up an appointment if I liked. Three short months after meeting with Billy, I was on my way to Boston with Cora Combs as my tag team partner, ready to take on the world!
  • Gimmick: I didn't really have a gimmick. The most flash I got in the ring was from putting henna in my hair and occasionally being called a fiery redhead!
  • Wrestling Style: Freestyle with fast moves. There was no doubt that I was a baby face.
  • Gear/Outfit/Costume: In those days, one piece suits were not only mandatory, they were reinforced at every opening. For a while, I wore a red sequined jacket and had white wrestling shoes made especially for me that tied up the back. As far as I know, no one else had shoes made that way. Dot Dotson used to say they were the little white shoes that little girls wear to make them look like big girls!
  • Titles Held: The only title accessible to me was the Women's Championship belt. Most of the time it was held by Mildred Burke. June Byers also held it for a time, as did Nell Stewart. I wrestled Nell Stewart and June Byers but never for the belt...and Mildred was always on the coast opposite where I was booked. I knew Mildred was truly tough but never had the opportunity to challenge her.
  • Biggest Win: That would be my match against June Byers. It was a rematch we had after she had purposely broken my nose. I had used a head butt and it knocked her out. After the match, she came to my dressing room with a big knot on her head and said "now we're even".
  • Worst Loss: My worst match was a match with June Byers when she purposely hit me in the face with her fist and broke my nose, blackened both my eyes and my face. She had an affinity for hitting new comers to "see if they could take it". I had no idea it was coming so I wasn't prepared. I had to take several days off for the swelling to go down and for my eyes to open again. When we had our rematch and June was "out", I wouldn't let the referee count her out. I dragged her around the ring and even lifted her shoulders when the referee was counting because I felt she would be getting off too easy. She was in no condition to continue the match even after she came to, but this was the one time in my wrestling career that I wouldn't let go! We wound up going to the time limit.
  • Favorite Type of Match: I preferred singles. I liked the idea that only I was responsible for my win or loss, although there was a lot of fun in battle royals. The battle royal that I recall with the most enjoyment was a match for Cowboy Lutteral in Florida...when Judy Glover slipped unnoticed out of the ring and crawled beneath it until nearly everyone had been eliminated. She then climbed back into the ring completely fresh! There were loud protests about her not being in the ring and she should have been counted out but she wasn't missed so she couldn't be eliminated.
  • Favorite Moves/Holds: Anything aerial appealed to me. One of my mentors was Antonio Rocco. He taught me to use flying drop kicks, nip-ups and many other fast-paced maneuvers.
  • Finisher: Indian Leg Lock using a forearm to hold it and a backward flip to apply pressure.
  • Biggest Allies: My biggest ally was Nell Stewart. When I first started wrestling, Nell actually put clothes on my back and shoes on my feet. She taught me how to be a lady as well as a wrestler. Because Nell was married to Billy Wolfe, I have to give him credit for being an ally, too.
  • Toughest Opponents: Most of them were tough. The ones who weren't were not around for long!
  • Career Highlight: TV, radio and newspaper interviews. They always treated us as if we were royalty or VIP's. On one of the TV interviews, I was invited to stay after the interview because the cooking show had prepared dinner for the staff and I was their honored guest!
  • Favorite Wrestlers: Buddy Rodgers; Bob McCune; Chief Big Heart; Don Eagle; Gorgeous George; Lou Thesz (of course). Of the women: Nell Stewart; Ella Waldek; Millie Stafford; Elvira Snodgrass. Elvira never ceased to amaze me. She was the Country Gal with the clodhoppers and a bonnet on, in New York looking up at the skyscrapers in amazement and almost howling wheeeeeeeeoooo! She also is one of the gutsiest people I ever knew. She and Betty Hawkins were in an auto accident. Elvira was driving with her arm out of the car and fell asleep at the wheel. She lost her arm as a result of that accident. As soon as it healed, she was back in the ring again.
  • What I Liked Most: In the beginning it didn't seem too great. It was a lot of hard work and really heavy travel. But as I began to make money, I was able to buy my own car and shopped at Nieman Marcus. I found my own self-image improved. I won't say I was in love with myself...I just was no longer ashamed. I had come from a poor background, had a daughter to support and hadn't even graduated from high school. My self esteem greatly improved and the respect that was bestowed on me was like a magnet drawing me in and holding me there. What was most appealing? I had two fan clubs. One in Texas and one in Canada. They were so adoring. If I could have, I would have packed them all in my suitcases and taken them everywhere with me. They were wonderful people. I truly enjoyed being invited into their homes.
  • What I Liked Least: The injuries I received. Both shoulders, hips and pelvis were dislocated, and my nose was broken. I had many knee injuries as well as broken ribs. I'm sure it must have been the early wrestlers who made people aware of the value of chiropractors long before they were accepted by the medical community. I know I have the greatest admiration and respect for them. They kept me going when a physician would only have given me pain pills.

Ethel Brown's Personal Notes...

    When I made the decision to leave wrestling, I had no idea what I might do with my life. I was offered a job singing in The Blue Mirror Lounge, on Charles Street, in Baltimore. I was only there a few months when I met the man who would come to be my husband. We had two more daughters and three sons. I stayed at home as a housewife and mother until my youngest son was of school age. I studied to take the GED test, then enrolled in an associate degree Nursing Program at Bucks County Community College. In Chicago, I was hired and trained in dialysis. I was a dialysis nurse for over 20 years. I held a charge position in a Florida unit where I eventually had my own office and trained patients how to dialyze at home.

    We retired to our home in Pennsylvania. Both my husband and I are finding it difficult, though, to retire. My husband takes consulting and interim management positions and I have become an obsessive volunteer. I work at the election polls as majority inspector from 7am to at least 10pm twice a year. I am a volunteer docent at the Parry Mansion in town from April through December. I am currently the president of Partners in Progress, Inc.--a small, not for profit organization focusing on quality of life issues. The assistance we give to New Hope is in the maintenance of public monuments and works; combating community deterioration, and lessening the burdens of local government without political affiliation.

    Finally, in my retirement, I was found by Penny Banner and was invited to the CAC reunion where I was awarded a plaque and Legendary Status in the Wrestlers Hall of Fame. Actually, the story of how I was found is cute. My daughter Fyffe, was surfing the web and came on a wrestling web site with a picture of a black girl and the name Ethel Brown beneath it. She sent off an email stating that Ethel Brown is her mother...and this girl is not Ethel Brown! That lead to Penny Banner, and after a brief exchange between Fyffe and Penny, I contacted Penny and wound up going to the reunion.

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"Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take many small steps." -- Helmut Schmidt

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