Two teams of seven to eight mighty women line up along the length of the rope, ready to demonstrate their strength. In this 1927 clip, the Sudbury, England tug of war team known as the “Nippies” pull with all their might to get their opponents to slip past the line.

“The girls think it great fun,” the video archived by multimedia resource, British Pathé, says.

Tug of war is a serious and competitive sport. The rules of the game are simple: pull the opposing team across a specific distance from the starting center line to win.

Between 1900 and 1920, the game was played at six Olympics—but only by men. The first tug of war competitions at the Games allowed teams of five to six, and members were permitted to participate in other Olympic sporting events. 

Boots and shoes play an important role in tug of war. For example, in the 1908 Olympic Games, the Liverpool Police team were criticized for their footwear which people said were “enormous shoes, so heavy in fact that it was only with great effort that they could lift their feet from the ground.” In the above video, the teams kneel on the ground for their shoes to be inspected for any spikes. At the beginning of the clip, you can see a man walk down the line and check the heel of one team member’s shoes.

The International Olympic Committee removed tug of war from the Games in 1920 after deciding there were too many sports and too many athletes competing. Ever since, countries and players passionate about tug of war have organized associations and world competitions. The Tug of War International Federation still continues to push for the sport to be reinstated into the Olympic Games. If the game ever returns to the Olympic Stadium, let’s hope women get their chance to show their prowess.

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