Husky Women ‘Form Rowing’

Bob [Koch] out in the great state of Washington was very pleased with Tim Koch’s (not related) answer yesterday about rowing caps. In Bob’s ‘thank you’ note he also writes,

One other item. I saw the entries on HTBS on women & “style” rowing (HTBS 26 August, 2011 and HTBS 27 August, 2011) – The University of Washington crew has a still developing history page, including the women. I recall especially reading this directive from the 1912 entry. It made my jaw drop to see that they were explicitly forbidden to “race”. Might exert themselves, who knew what that could lead to! All looks, drill, choreography. It reads:

“The women shall dress at the gymnasium and report there before and after rowing.

The women who turn out for rowing must demonstrate that they can swim.

There shall be no racing at any time. (This does not exclude form contests.)

The women shall not use the shells. (The barges will be used, as in the custom in women’s rowing to avoid danger.)”

The website Bob is referring to is the eminent, Husky Crew, which tells a marvellous story about rowing at University of Washington in Seattle. Already in 1906 women were allowed to do some “form rowing” in an old beginner’s barge. But the girls were not satisfied with form matches, they wanted to race. The famous rowing coach Hiram Conibear (on the right) began coaching them in 1907, and saw noting wrong with them speed racing, which unfortunately led to a ban on women’s rowing at the university in 1910. From the website, we quote:

“While remembering the 1910 season of rowing, Dollie (McLean) Callow (wife of legendary Coach and former UW oarsman Rusty Callow) told Al Ulbrickson Jr. (son of another legendary Washington coach Al Ulbrickson), in an interview on May 5, 1963, that the women did still race – although in secret. Ulbrickson wrote – ‘While the girls’ program was not supposed to be competitive in the least, it was not unusual for two or more girls’ crews to compete unofficially when out of sight of the boat house.’ (A History of Intercollegiate Rowing at the University of Washington through 1963, Alvin E. Ulbrickson Jr., 1963, p. 74)”

The ban was lifted two years later, in 1912, but the rules that Bob brings up above were in effect at this time. The women’s rowing had its peak in 1916 and eventually disappeared for fifty years at University of Washington.

Again, the Husky Crew website is a thrilling read and will keep you up during the late hours. Read it here!

In a note from England, Tim Koch writes on women rowing, “Furnivall Sculling Club women had to leave the club once they got married as it was thought that they could not both row and look after their husbands! Up until the 1960s you had to ask the senior member present for permission to bring a woman into the clubroom at Auriol RC. We only admitted women as members in the early 1990s.”

(The photographs above are from the Husky Crews website!)

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