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PGRC 150th Anniversary on June 2 features 1967 Vichy Eight, first US women's crew to compete internationally

June 1, 2012


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Vichy, France, September 1967. PGRC Eight
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Schuylkill River, Philadelphia, 1987: 20th reunion of the PGRC Eight.
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The oldest building on Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, will celebrate its 150th anniversary on Saturday, June 2 from 4-7 PM and special guests include the entire crew from the 1967 "Vichy Eight," which was the first US women's crew to compete internationally, in the European Women's Rowing Championships, the top competition at that time! The commemorative event, aptly named 150 years . . . then and now, will be held at #14 Boathouse Row (14 Kelly Drive). The event is hosted by the Philadelphia Girls' Rowing Club (PGRC) with support from the Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society (PSC&HS).

Number14 Boathouse Row was built in 1861 by PSC&HS, the nation's first skating club. Today it is home to PGRC, America's first and only all-women's sculling club. For the past 150 years, the building's two primary occupants have been quietly setting both local and nationwide precedents. PSC&HS was an early leader in ice skating, whose members also founded and manned Philadelphia's first river patrol and water rescue squads. Their vigilance and dedication saved many lives and prevented countless tragedies in the icy waters of the Schuylkill.

Moving from the river to an indoor rink, PSC&HS's figure skaters now successfully compete in national, international, and Olympic venues. In 1938, four intrepid ladies who steadfastly believed that women should have equal access to the male dominated sport of rowing decided to form the Philadelphia Girls Rowing Club (PGRC). The former skating clubhouse at #14 proved an ideal location to establish a presence on Boathouse Row, and the fledgling club quickly became a haven for female rowers. Despite many struggles and challenges, the women's resolute dedication and love of the sport prevailed.

The oldest founder Ruth Adams Robinhold recently celebrated her 99th birthday! A deep-seated camaraderie amongst the members and a passion for sculling are longstanding hallmarks of the membership. Since its inception, PGRC has maintained a commitment to promoting the sport of rowing at all levels for women of all ages.

Today the club is home to Olympic, Masters, and National Champion rowers, The Agnes Irwin School crew, and amateurs of all abilities and ages. Throughout the years PGRC's members have been pivotal in helping women achieve national prominence in rowing, and in bringing the sport of women's crew to the Olympic Games.

From skating to sculling, #14 has rightly earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark. The Italianate "plain villa"? design is reminiscent of 19th century Philadelphia and was considered "modern and upscale" in the 1860's. It is uniquely fitting that the first building on Boathouse Row has its legacy rooted in service, advocacy, achievement, and exceptional sportsmanship.

Olympic, Masters, and National Champion rowers and figure skaters, local historians, and officials from the Schuylkill Navy, Fairmount Park, and Philadelphia will gather for a sunset cocktail event on June 2, from 4-7 PM at the boathouse to celebrate 150 years . . . then and now! Tickets are available at www.philadelphiagirlsrowingclub.org. Support of the event will benefit the PGRC Preservation project, to ensure that this historic building and its history are preserved for generations to come.

The full delegation photo at right: Vichy, France, September 1967. PGRC Eight and Delegation. (L-R) Catherine Sader; Ernestine Bayer Jr. - 7 Seat; Nancy Farrell-Stroke; Marjory Pollack Ballheim - Cox; Ernest Bayer; Evelyn Kay Bergman, 5 Seat substituting for Faye Bardman Donovan; Penny Gibson Henwood - 6 Seat; Elizabeth Griffen Bergen; Anita (Jinx) Becker Sacco - 4 Seat; Janice Saudargas - 3 Seat; Barbara DePena Hoe - 2 Seat; Sophie Socha - Bow; Ernestine Bayer Sr.; Marge Pollack



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