Protest and Triumph: The History of Women’s Rowing
22nd June 2011
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Protest and Triumph: The History of Women’s Rowing


New exhibition at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames

Celebrating the female champions who fought for recognition in a male-dominated sport

A unique exhibition featuring anecdotes, images and artefacts brought together for the first time.



Rocking the Boat – The History of Women’s Rowing charts the struggles and successes of the women who changed the face of rowing.  From the Victorian pioneers who risked social alienation to race, to the infamous, bare-breasted demonstration of the 1976 Yale University crew, to current Olympic glory in a sport in which today almost half of all competitive crews are women. 


Rocking the Boat – The History of Women’s Rowing brings together never before exhibited images, powerful personal testimony and rare sporting artefacts to tell an uplifting story of obstacles overcome, dramatic social change and sporting success.  


Exhibition highlights include:

Light-hearted anecdotes and moving personal stories, from the first women’s crew to race for England in Australia in 1938, who kept fit playing deck tennis against the returning men’s Australian Rugby team during their six week voyage down-under, to the achievements of Chris Ernst who championed the cause of women’s rowing in America throughout 1970s and 80s, eventually becoming the World Champion in Double Sculls in 1986.

Trophies and kit belonging to some of the greatest Oarswomen of all time, such as 1930s trail-blazer Amy Gentry and 1976 US Olympian Anita DeFrantz. 

Profiles of early 20th Century trailblazers: women who faced social alienation in their desire to row and race – the female rowing ‘kit’ of the time was a full length skirt. 

“Barney”, the famous Women’s VIII Boat – a new acquisition by the museum - so named after Gladys Barnes, President of the Civil Service HQ Boat Club, and Captain of the 1938 British Crew who competed in the Australian Interstate Championships.

The very first Olympic medal won by British women rowers, awarded to Guin Batten in the quadruple sculls at the Sydney games in 2000. 

Katherine Grainger’s Gold Medal and kit from the 2010 World Championships.


Rocking the Boat also looks to the future of women’s rowing:  - today 40% of all competitive crews are women, and represent some of Great Britain’s best medal hopes for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games. 


Rachel Wragg, Senior Curator, the River & Rowing Museum said, “Exciting possibilities await the future of Women’s Rowing, particularly at the London 2012 Olympic Games.  However, the equality and opportunity that women rowers enjoy today has only been possible because of the determination of early pioneers.  Their fight to be recognised as legitimate competitors was often at great personal sacrifice, and their sporting achievements are even more impressive because of this.  This exhibition tells their inspirational story and demonstrates how far the sport has come since the time of Victorian women trailblazers.”


Year long access for the price of one ticket

The Museum provides a unique ticket pricing policy-enabling people to visit as many as times as they wish during the year for the price of one ticket.  Tickets are £8 for adults, £6 for children.



About the Author

Gill and Phil C

Member since: 9th July 2012

Hi, We are Phil and Gill Chappell. We own the Best of Henley-on-Thames. We live in Henley so would love to hear your views and opinions about all things Henley.

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