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Among her most extraordinary feats was lifting a chair containing three heavy men.But was Lulu Hurst — who giggled with delight each time she triumphed — truly invested with supernatural powers?Her seemingly superhuman strength was even put to practical use.Once, while she was travelling through Cornwall in a caravan with five others, their horse refused to go up a particularly steep hill.Intrigued, Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, invited her to come to perform for him at his home, but even he was at a loss to explain her feats.'Some, like Charmion (real name Laverne Vallee), knowingly used their sex appeal to spice up their acts.Before embarking on various feats of strength, she’d swing on a trapeze while dressed in voluminous Victorian clothes.'As for Lulu, after just two years, she decided to retire — having accumulated more than £50,000 from her stage show, and even more from endorsing soap, cigars and even farm equipment (slogan: ‘As strong as Lulu Hurst! As her cousin was cowering under the bedclothes, with her eyes tightly closed, Lulu had started rocking the headboard of the bed against the wall and producing scary popping sounds.Suddenly, the ‘dumb acts’ — the muscle-bound strongmen of the music halls, who’d been grunting and sweating over dumb-bells for years — found themselves propelled from the bottom of the bill to the top. As Max wrote in later years: ‘I knew that never before had I been in the presence of such loveliness.

This was the legacy of a stormy night when Lulu had been sharing a bed with a visiting cousin, who hid under the bedclothes because she was terrified by the thunder and lightning.Appropriately, her stage act climaxed with two horses standing on a platform held up by her stomach.Kate had another potent advantage over many of her rivals: she happened to be both pretty and slim.But Kate wasn’t by any means the first to have defied convention.As early as 1724, a woman billed as a ‘Female Samson’ was performing twice a day in Charing Cross, London.