IWD 2022: The Girls In The Boat

1927: An edition of The Vote, the newspaper of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL), marks the First Oxford – Cambridge Women’s Boat Race. The WFL was an offshoot of the Women’s Social and Political Union, the “Suffragettes”, and was formed in 1907 after Christabel Pankhurst decided that the WSPU would effectively be run by her. The WFL used direct action such as passive resistance to taxation and non-cooperation with the census, rather than attacks on people and property, to further the cause of women’s suffrage and equality.

8 March 2022

By Tim Koch

To mark International Women’s Day, Tim Koch again makes his one historical post a year that does not include pictures of old men with big moustaches. Take that, patriarchy! 

1977: Anita DeFrantz and Anne Warner race in that year’s World Championships. The two won bronze in the US Olympic eight in Montreal 1976, the first games in which women’s rowing was included.
1937: Members of the Cecil Ladies Rowing Club pictured by River Lea in East London.
2021: Cambridge, victorious in the Women’s Lightweight Boat Race. Picture: Ben Tufnell/Row360.
1956: A crew from Florida Southern College training for the Women’s Intramural Sorority Crew Races held annually during Founder’s Week.
1931: International competition on the Tideway.
1984 – 2004: Elisabeta Lipă from Romania, the most decorated rower in the history of the Olympics, winning five gold, two silver and one bronze. She holds the record of 20 years between rowing Olympic golds.
1933: A excuse to show some scanty garb.
1949: Die Junge Frauen Ruderregatta (“Young Women’s Rowling Regatta”) at Maschsee, Hannover, West Germany.
1897: Women’s racing at Putney as reported by The Sporting Life newspaper.
1981: The first women’s race at Henley Royal Regatta. The 1980 Rowing Club, USA, beat Adanac Boat Club, Canada. Picture: HRR.
1907: Coach, Hiram Conibear, and a University of Washington women’s crew.
1895 onwards: From the Lea RC website.
1930: A Bristol University – Edinburgh University Women’s Boat Race.
1870: Lottie McAlice. A sculling race between Lottie McAlice and Maggie Lew was held on July 23, 1870, on the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh. The one-mile race between two 16-year-old contestants was the first such event to capture wide public attention. Today, the Lottie McAlice Regatta is held annually at the Head of the Ohio.
1950s: Wellesley College Rowing Crews on Lake Waban, Massachusetts. Women have been rowing at Wellesley since 1875.
1925: News that girls can scull.
1928: Reading University v Oxford University Women’s Boat Race.
1939: A page from the chapter “Women and Their Fight for the Right to Row” in Dotty Brown’s Boathouse Row: Waves of Change in the Birthplace of American Rowing (published by Temple University Press, 2017) showing Ernestine Bayer, a pioneer in the development of women’s rowing in the United States. An illustrated 15-page excerpt from the book is here.


  1. An excellent article by Tim and would add that not only was Lady Desborough appointed as founding president of the Women’s Amateur Rowing Association (WARA) in 1923; a small but significant milestone in the history of the sport but that Katherine Grainger will be writing the foreword to our forthcoming book on Lord Desborough, the Titan of the Thames

  2. First female regatta participation in Germany in 1870?

    Sorry, no pictures, but on May 29, 1870, Frankfurter Ruderverein von 1865 (the Frankfurt Rowing Association founded in 1865, FRV) organized the first ever regatta in Frankfurt (which was also only the third ever in Germany) against Germania Frankfurt and Hanauer Ruderverein. More than 10,000 spectators came to view the event downtown on the river Main. FRV had 700 invited guests in a tent on its island which is crossed by the Alte Brücke (old bridge). The rowing course started upstream at the Gerbermühle with a turn at the Eiserner Steg (iron footbridge) a few hundred meters downstream, the finish was back at Alte Brücke. The referee had to ride on horseback, because low water made the use of the steamboat impossible. Outrigger fours, doubles and singles as well as kayaks competed. In the domestic four (without outriggers) FRV won against Germania, because the latter lost an oar. In the first race, in the coxed double, three boats from the Frankfurt shipyards Leux (founded in 1854) and Wirth (founded in 1862) and also a women’s team take part, possibly inofficially:
    “It was interesting that in this race three picturesquely dressed beautiful girls competed with their male opponents. Unfortunately, Fortuna was not favorable to them, because “Castellar”, coxswain Mr. Reul, defeated the skillful women rowers, who were initially in the advantage and they arrived only last.”So reports Friedrich August Müller-Rentz, in the Frankfurter Zeitung, 31 May 1870.
    Rowing journalist Wendelin Hugo Bardorff reminisces on the regatta sixty years later in FRV’s Monatliche Mitteilungen (monthly messages, MM) of May 1930. According to him, among the audience on island …”… the first circles of society … were represented … In the Neptun three Offenbach girls in red blouses and black skirts had rowed along, first leading, but finally overtaken by the gentlemen of creation. Although they were far behind at the finish, a storm of applause arose … when they completed the race.”
    One of the rowers of 1870, “Frau Dorothea Schuboe Wwe. in Offenbach”, was still alive 65 years later, as the MM of December 1935 note. At the time of the historic regatta she was the landlord’s daughter of the restaurant “zum Nordpol” on the Main in neighbouring Offenbach, a frequent destination of FRV rowing trips.

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