“Kate Roberts, nee Williams (“Vulcana”), the famous lightweight strongwoman was born in 1883 of Irish parents in Abergavenny, in Wales. When she was young she loved running without rest, climbing to the trees and all those things that girls were not supposed to do. Being a middle school student she surprised her classmates by carrying the weighty school organ. With strongman William Hedley Roberts, better known as Atlas, they toured music halls, in Britain, Europe and Australia, performing as “The Atlas and Vulcana Group of Society Athletes”. Atlas and Vulcana introduced themselves as a brother and a sister, even though they lived de facto as a married couple having many children which they kept with the troupe. Kate took the artistic name “Vulcana” when was performing with strength demonstrations in the “Music Hall of London” (alone or with Atlas). Her specialty was lifting men.
Vulcana reached the peak of her strength and popularity in about 1910. On May 29, 1913 at Haggar’s Theatre in Llanelly, she lifted a challenge bell that rival strongwoman harda failed to raise after twenty-five minutes of trying. Vulcana was triumphant in France, impressing the “l’Halterophile Club de France” with her feats of strength, earning her a medal from the “Father of French Bodybuilding,” Professor Edmond Desbonnet, and the cover of La Sante par les Sports. She was honored with over one hundred medals throughout her career. Her best-authenticated feats were bent press with her right hand of at least 124? lb (56.5 kg), with some authorities accepting a press of 145 lb (66 kg).
Although her power stunts were not especially innovative, being the typical for strongwomen, Vulcana was the first woman who included in her repertoire the unique stunt, so-called “Tomb of Hercules” which had been performed just by few powerful men. This act consisted in supporting a big platform placing on the abdomen of the performer who leans backwards on the floor by the hands and legs. The wonder is that two horses with their attendants stood on that platform and leave it for a few seconds. She struggled against the custom of wearing corsets considering this part of women’s equipment to be unnatural that was an instrument of torturing grandmothers of that epoch. There are a lot of legends about her strength and courage. It is said that once, in Paris, she caught a thief, grabbed him and took him to a police precinct. In 1898, at the age of thirteen, she stopped a runaway horse in Bristol. She freed a wagon stuck in Maiden Lane, London in October 1901 by lifting it before astonished witnesses.
She rescued two children from drowning in the River Usk in July 1901, for which she received an award in gratitude. On June 4, 1921 the Garrick Theatre in Edinburgh caught fire on an evening of the Society Athletes’ performance. Vulcana risked her life to save another act’s horses, and came away with serious burns on her head. For this she won commendations and an award.
Vulcana and Atlas moved permanently to London in the 1920s, and retired from performance in 1932. Vulcana was hit by a car in London in 1939, and was conscious when she heard her own death pronounced. She suffered brain damage, but partially recovered, and briefly outlived Atlas and her youngest daughter, both of whom also died in 1946.”