Abbye “Pudgy” Stockton (August 11, 1917 in Santa Monica, California – June 26, 2006) was a professional strongwoman and forerunner of present-day female bodybuilders, who became famous through her involvement with Muscle Beach in the 1940s.
Abbye Eville was born on August 11, 1917, and moved to Santa Monica, California in 1924. She acquired the nickname “Pudgy” as a child, and the name stuck, even though she weighed approximately 115 pounds at a height of 5’2″. She began dating UCLA student Les Stockton during her senior year of high school; they were married in 1941.
Stockton and her husband were frequent visitors to Muscle Beach, where they primarily worked on acrobatics and gymnastics. One of their most famous feats involved Pudgy serving as the “understander”, supporting Les (180 pounds) over her head in a hand to hand stand. Pudgy quickly became a media favorite, and was included in pictorials in Life, Pic, and Laff. She was also featured in the newsreels Whatta Build and Muscle Town USA, as well as ads for Ritamine Vitamin Company and the Universal Camera Company. She estimated that she was featured on the cover of forty-two magazines by the end of the 1940s (Todd, 1999). She posed with many of the top male bodybuilders of the time, including John Grimek and Steve Reeves.
In 1944, Stockton began writing a regular column on women’s training, “Barbelles”, in Strength & Health magazine, then the most influential fitness magazine in the world. She also helped organize the first sanctioned weightlifting contests for women. The first of these contests with a sanction from the Amateur Athletic Union was held on February 28, 1947 at the Southwest Arena in Los Angeles. In that contest, Stockton pressed 100 pounds, snatched 105 pounds, and clean and jerked 135 pounds.
Physique contests for women were virtually non-existent in the 1940s, and Stockton held only one such title during her career – she was named “Miss Physical Culture Venus” in 1948. She was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2000.