Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Swim suits and high heels

A 1911 issue of Puck magazine featured mermaids. Library of Congress.
SO HOW HAVE YOU BEEN SPENDING YOUR SUMMER? In a tent? By a pool? In front of a fan?
One hundred summers ago, girls and women were also trying to keep cool (1911 temps soared past the 100-degree mark in early July on the East Coast—sound familiar?) — plus living their lives and making headlines. Read the news’ items below and guess which ones are true. Then check out the answers — and the rest of the story.


  1. Thousands of young women were irate when scolded for “promenading on the beach and on the streets of this resort, clad in bathing suits and high-heeled shoes” by the Atlantic City mayor.
  2. A group of girls canoeing on the Allegheny River fought off 20 large muskrats as they tried to climb into their canoes.
  3.  Who needs lunchtime yoga? Many Manhattan “office girls” spent their breaks skipping lunch to ballroom dance to such hits as “The Glow Worm.”
  4.  The minister at a New York church started a girls’ gun club, hoping to develop his congregation’s young women into “crack shots.”
  5.  Seniors at a women’s college in South Carolina refused to receive diplomas at graduation from their state’s governor.
  6.  Despite the plane’s steering wheel snapping in two, a female aviation student brought the plane safely to the ground in St. Louis.
  7.  Female hotel employees played – and beat – a male baseball team.
  8. A teenage girl swam a whopping 21 miles — in 8 hours and 7 minutes — from East 26th Street in Manhattan to Coney Island.


  1.  True. While the combination of a swimsuit and high heels creates a scandalous vision today, back in 1911 the latest swim fashions meant knee-length woolen swimsuits, worn with black stockings and buckled shoes — hardly enough to get your undies in a bunch, even back then. 
  2. True. A couple of the girls actually fell out of the canoes and were bitten by the swimming rats. Yikes.
  3. True. Young women flocked to a restaurant that offered complimentary ballroom dancing to a live orchestra over lunch. While there were some male-female couples, most young women danced in groups for exercise.
  4. True. The minister at the Broad Street Park Methodist Episcopal Church founded the Girl Rangers Club.
  5. True. Winthrop College seniors snubbed tradition — and Governor C.L. Blease — for his racist policies and asked their college president, Dr. R.B. Johnson, to instead hand out the diplomas.
  6. True. Nina Hibbard grabbed the plane’s “elevator rod” and landed the plane with finesse. Onlookers cheered her death-defying feat. 
  7. True. The male players wore “ballet costumes, draperies of lace curtains” and other costumes. Perhaps they thought doing so would put them on equal footing with the women? Not so much. Go, girls!
  8. True. A crowd of thousands welcomed 17-year-old Rose Pitonof for her amazing swim.


  1. What a fun issue! LOVED the true stories!

  2. Karin, came to your blog through your she writes page -- very fun. I've just added you to my google reader.