Wrestling Herstory: Cora Livingston

Brian Damage

Women’s wrestling has certainly grown and prospered in recent years. All the talk of the Women’s Revolution is very real, as we are now seeing more and more women in high profile matches and even main eventing big shows. Before we can talk about the current crop of female talents, we must first look back into history to find the true trailblazers of women’s wrestling. This is wrestling history….this is wrestling HERstory.

To kick off this series, I couldn’t think of any other female grappler more deserving, than Cora Livingston. While her name may not be familiar to many fans, she was a true female wrestling pioneer. She was born in 1887 in Buffalo, New York. Her parents both died when Cora was very young. She was sent to a Catholic orphanage where she was raised by nuns. Cora grew up participating in athletics. She mostly did track and field in school, but at age 16, she ran away and began training to become a professional wrestler. She was trained by male wrestlers Dr Benjamin Roller and Scottish Catch wrestler Dan Mcleod.

Cora began wrestling matches in the circus , starting when she was just 16 years old. By 1910, Livingston made history when she defeated a wrestler named Laura Bennett to become the very first recognized women’s world champion. It was a title she would hold on to until her retirement in 1925. Some have claimed that Livingston was undefeated as the women’s champion, but some newspapers had her losing a couple of non title bouts. In any case, Livingston was highly regarded as one of the most credible female wrestlers during an era when women’s wrestling was not taken seriously at all.

She married wrestler/promoter Paul Bowser in 1913 and he helped further her training and managed her career. It was rumored that Cora wanted to retire from wrestling a few times during her long championship reign, but her husband did not allow it. When she finally did retire as champion, she assisted her husband in promoting wrestling in Boston. Cora Livingston helped guide another future female wrestling legend in Mildred Burke early in her career, Livingston passed away on April 23rd, 1957 at or around the age of 70.

In 2004, Cora’s world title belt was sold on eBay for $1,677.00.

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