row2k Features
Wayback Wednesday
Pre-WWII Women's Collegiate Rowing
May 6, 2020
Adam Bruce, row2k.com

click for the next photo
Wellesley's 1922 varsity crew. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Wellesley's 1922 varsity crew. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!
Wellesley rowing girls 1913. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!
Cornell Women's Crew, ca. 1920. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Archives - Click for full-size image!
Cornell Women's Crew, ca. 1920. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Archives - Click for full-size image!
Sage College Boating Club rowed out of a Beebe Lake boathouse on Cornell’s campus between 1897 and 1926, disbanding in 1933. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Archives - Click for full-size image!
Cornell Women's Crew, ca. 1920. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Archives - Click for full-size image!
This photo was entitled 1903 Women's Crew Team in drag. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Archives - Click for full-size image!
Female carrying oars, Cornell University 1905. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!


On this week’s Wayback Wednesday, we are taking a quick look back at women’s collegiate rowing. While the first NCAA championships wasn’t held until 1997, the first college to establish a women’s crew team was Wellesley College in the late 1800’s.

While we weren’t able to track down any Wellesley photos from the 1800’s, we were able to find a shot of their varsity crew from 1913 and 1922. Wellesley wasn’t the only game in town in the 1920’s. Teams from Cornell to Washington had established women’s boat clubs. In Cornell’s university archives, we were able to locate photos from around 1920. Women rowed at Cornell until 1933 when the program was put on hiatus until 1974. It later became a varsity sport in 1975.

Jumping across the pond, the first women’s Boat Race was held in 1927. The race video can be found here.

There were also a few more Cornell photos that are not in the public domain; see them here:

If you have any old school rowing images we should check out and are allowed to share, please send them to us.

P.S. Don’t forget Mother’s Day is this Sunday!

Thanks to Meredith Breiland for the tip on the existence of a Cornell photo in a Chamber of Commerce brochure, which led to a fruitful search for the source and to more photos.

During these unprecendented times, row2k is working hard to keep rowing coming to you; please help us keeping it coming by supporting our work!


Comments

Log in to comment
Larz
05/06/2020  4:02:34 PM
2 people like this
The photo of the 1922 Wellesley crew brought back memories. In 1966, I raced in one of those wide boats against a Wellesley crew. I was bow or 2 on Harvard’s Winthrop House crew. We had had a good house regatta, coming second to Elliott House, which normally won because so many ex-varsity rowers lived there. Inexplicably, we were invited to Wellesley’s Tree Day, where their senior class plants a tree, plus various other events including a regatta between one boat from each of Wellesley’s four classes. We would race against the winner of that regatta.

One look at the wide boats and short oars and we realized we’d have to really wind it up to move our greater weight. And the race was short (500-1000m?) on the lake on Wellesley’s campus. Wellesley got a handicap start, and after a very busy few minutes we overhauled them just at the line. Afterwards, they very graciously threw our cox in for us.

Those wide boats were too heavy to lift in and out of the water, so the Wellesley boathouse was specially constructed with doors leading into bays with water in them. After removing the oars, the boats were floated into the bays and lifted using slings and pulleys.


shoshin
05/08/2020  9:46:37 AM
Fascinating! How did house rowing work? How many participated? Did you practice or race often?



Larz
05/09/2020  11:38:49 AM
Harvard’s House Crew program continues (except for this year!). Each of the 13 Houses is assigned a hull (identical Pocock Club level 8+’s on a rotating replacement cycle) and a set of oars (C2). In my day each House had just one (men’s) crew, now the program has expanded to up to four crews per House (A&B levels for both Men and Women), occasionally more. It’s now a huge program: in a recent year there were 37 crews, so around 350 participants figuring in some who give rowing just a brief try.

A mix of former rowers (cannot have been on the Harvard varsity within 6 months I believe), varsity athletes in other sports, and people who just want to try rowing. Current varsity coxes can row in House Crew; varsity rowers can cox. Women can race in a “Men’s” crew (and do) but not vice versa. Obviously each rower can race in only one of the four events.

The program runs for roughly 6 weeks, starting with certification in the rowing tanks (loaned by the Varsity) before spring break. Practices are weekdays 6-10AM and each House’s crews typically hot seat for ca 1 hour sessions, commonly with mixing (permitted) due to class schedules. Usually at least 3 coaches out in launches plus 1 more on semi-break on the dock (keeping an eye on things and phoning a coach on the water when a crew that needs/wants coaching is about to launch). Head coach is Dan Boyne.

Just one regatta, to earn points for each House towards a multi-sport intramural trophy. For the regatta, a 1000m time trial seeds the fields in each event into upper and lower finals. Both the upper and lower finals are 1500m for the A Men’s and Women’s events, 1000m for the B Men and Women.

Hope that covers your questions.




Rowing Features
Rowing Headlines
Get our Newsletter!
Enter your email address to receive our updates!
Support row2k!
If you rely on row2k, please support row2k!

Get Social with row2k!
Like row2k on Facebook Follow row2k on Twitter Follow row2k on Instagram Follow row2k on Youtube Connect with row2k on LinkedIn

Get the row2k app!

row2k rowing store!

Get our Newsletter!
Enter your email address to receive our updates!

Support row2k!


Advertiser Index
Advertise on row2k