Please cite this article as:

Taylor, L. Mrs K. L. Summerton: The Forgotten Founder of the Women’s Amateur Rowing Association?, In Piercey, N. and Oldfield, S.J. (ed), Sporting Cultures: Global Perspectives (Manchester: MMU Sport and Leisure History, 2019), 166-180.

ISBN paperback 978-1-910029-49-7

Chapter 9 


Mrs K. L. Summerton: The Forgotten Founder of the Women’s Amateur Rowing Association?

Lisa Taylor



Women’s contributions to sport are inadequately represented in the study of its history, and despite the increasing attention directed towards their participation,[1] female contributions to sporting administration and leadership remain largely unexplored. Recent work has begun to offer some insight, the most pertinent here being Jo Halpin’s work on women’s hockey leagues in Britain, which addresses both the evolution of formalised competitive structures for women and specifically gendered issues of sports leadership.[2] However, the Women’s Amateur Rowing Association (WARA), formed in 1923 and an independent administrative body until 1963 when it merged with the Amateur Rowing Association (ARA), has received no such attention. Despite the prominence of the ARA in narratives around rowing history,[3] and amateurism in sport more broadly,[4] the WARA and the women involved in its foundation and management have received little scholarly attention. Where the organisation does appear in literature specific to rowing, it is only as peripheral commentary on the men’s sport.[5] An exception to this is Amanda Schweinbenz, whose work discusses the activities of the WARA, its ideological foundations and its alignment with existing amateur ideals, and identifies the WARA as being active in lobbying for the inclusion of women’s rowing at the Olympic Games.[6] Yet while her work offers a deeper and more nuanced consideration of the women’s sport, especially at an international level, the particulars of the WARA are, for the most part, not within her scope. Even in her more extensive discussions, the forenames of the founder – ‘Mrs K. L. Summerton’ – remain hidden, the research required to determine her full name and identity not having been undertaken.

This chapter begins to address this omission, and to explore its potential implications. It uses genealogical research and the limited archival evidence pertaining to Mrs Summerton and the WARA to reveal more details about her identity and to explore early amateur women’s rowing from a different perspective. The biographical detail uncovered is suggestive of characteristics within the community of female athletes that contrast those presented in the existing literature around women’s rowing and its administration, including claims that the social profile and agenda of the WARA reflected that of the ARA.[7] The value of genealogical and biographical research in populating, corroborating, or challenging historical narratives is therefore explored here in response to these conflicting narratives.[8]

The absence of detail about Summerton is thrown into sharp relief by the prominence of a different figure in records and memories of women’s rowing: Amy Gentry. A successful athlete in the 1920s, founder of Weybridge Ladies Amateur Rowing Club (WLARC), almost lifelong-administrator of the sport, and well-known rowing personality along the banks of the River Thames in her time,[9] Gentry is a dominant figure in existing narratives around women’s rowing and the WARA. Her active involvement in the sport and its administration is regularly acknowledged in archive materials, personal accounts, and the literature, and occasionally overstated. Halladay’s discussion, for example, claims that ‘the Women’s Rowing Association [sic]’ was formed as a result of the exclusion of women by the ARA, and that the use of ‘Women’s’ rather than ‘Ladies’ was taken ‘following a lead given by Amy Gentry of Weybridge Ladies Rowing Club’;[10] he attributes an agency to Gentry in this decision which is not borne out in the records.

This is not to question Gentry’s substantial contribution to women’s rowing. She sat on the WARA committee for almost all of its forty-year history, and throughout its transition into the ARA, having been recruited as Assistant Honorary Secretary to Mrs Summerton and the fledgling committee,[11] Honorary Secretary in 1928,[12] and, from 1939, Chair.[13] Having retired in 1968,[14] her award of an OBE in 1969 for her work in rowing is a strong recognition of both the length of her service and the extent of what she was understood to have achieved.[15] Beyond her activities relating directly to the sport, however, her contribution to its historical record is significant: notably, in an archive of personal documents and artefacts held at the River & Rowing Museum, Henley on Thames, and published articles in rowing almanacs, Rowing magazine and, after the Second World War, the WARA’s own publication The Oarswoman. A more critical assessment of the political motivations and personal ambitions underpinning the record that she helped to shape is, therefore, required.

The Women’s Amateur Rowing Association in context

The WARA was founded in 1923, some forty years after the Amateur Rowing Association (ARA) began to legislate for the men’s sport,[16] and in a context of change for women. The extent to which female autonomy and agency increased as British society emerged from the end of the First World War has been disputed, yet some reconfiguration of the expectations of women is evident in public and private contexts, despite some reactionary impulses towards conservative gender norms.[17] This reconfiguration, albeit conditional and uneven, impacted on women’s leisure and sporting activity as well as their professional and domestic lives.[18] Yet the formation of a governing body run by women is indicative not only of greater appetite and permissions for sporting participation, but also for greater autonomy in how women’s sports might be played and organised.[19] The stated aims of the WARA were ‘to maintain amongst women the standard of Oarsmanship as recognised by Amateur Rowing Clubs; to hold a Regatta or Regattas if and when so determined by the Committee, such Regattas to be mainly or exclusively for women; [and] to promote the interests of Boat Racing generally amongst women’.[20] The first and third of these replicate the aims set out in the ARA constitution, with only the gender pronouns altered.[21] The WARA’s emphasis on competitive opportunity is clear: the organisation was oriented towards racing, as well as the wider goal of upholding the sport’s standards.

These objectives aside, the motivations behind forming the WARA do not appear to have been documented at the time: the first known formal record of these aims is in a rule book printed in 1930, some seven years after its formation. Early minutes do not discuss the process of formation, or the vision for the association. The fullest account of its formation is provided by Amy Gentry in a 1949 retrospective, published in Rowing magazine, in which she recalls that since the existing governing bodies did not legislate for women, Summerton was asked ‘“why don’t you form your own Association?”’ by ‘an old rowing man’. Gentry adds that this was ‘the obvious solution and, thanks to her vigorous efforts, soon the W.A.R.A. [sic] became a reality’.[22] There is no suggestion that the organisation had any strong ideological motivations, although her discussion of its foundation is prefaced with the comment  that ‘the 1914-18 war freed women from many inhibitions of the past’, and that specifically in sport, ‘ladies were no longer watchers, in elegant idleness, of men’s recreations but co-partners in the clean atmosphere of healthy sport’.[23] She thus explicitly locates Summerton’s actions in a context of greater balance between men and women. Beyond this, the ‘inhibitions’ she acknowledges could equally refer to class: suffrage activism in particular had offered a precedent for women overcoming class barriers in pursuit of particular ideological goals.[24]

Gentry’s report is significant in the way it locates and explains the formation of the early WARA. As well as Summerton’s ‘vigorous efforts’, it praises her ‘foresight and enterprise [which] brought their own reward’, and it notes that by 1926 the WARA regatta ‘had become the high light [sic] of the women’s rowing year’.[25] Yet this account is written at a substantial remove from when it occurred, and with some political motivation regarding the future of the women’s sport. In the aftermath of the Second World War, a process of revival was underway in rowing, and the relationship between the men’s and women’s rowing communities was being recalibrated. The 1948 Almanac, for example, was the first to include details of the women’s sport and of the NARA; its editor claims that ‘the break in continuity, owing to the war…provided an admirable opportunity to provide a more comprehensive book, dealing with British rowing as a whole’,[26] the administration open to reducing class and gender divides.[27] Gentry too had seized an opportunity to assume the chair in 1939, revealing some ambition for her role within the sport,[28] and her greater internal influence – coupled with a greater receptiveness from the male rowing establishment to engage with the WARA – would be likely to introduce a degree of political motivation to her reporting. In this context, minimising Summerton’s contributions could offer a way to bolster her position and authority.

Mrs K. L. Summerton: the forgotten founder

Through genealogical research, Mrs Summerton was identified as being born Kate Louise Parrish in Essex, in 1875, to Isaac and Caroline Parrish. Census data records that her father was a general labourer, and that by 1891, at the age of sixteen, she was employed in general domestic service in a neighbouring town. There is no evidence of her level of education. She married John Summerton who was then employed as a gold blocker, in the third quarter of 1899.[29] She had borne a child in 1900, which had died in infancy; and by 1901 they had moved to Camberwell, in South London. The chronology suggests that marriage would have been expedited, if not prompted, by the arrival of the child.

Summerton’s location in a lower social class, certainly as a young woman,[30] is noteworthy given the current understanding of women’s amateur rowing. Aside from any cultural characterisation of the sport and participation within it, the material requirements of participation, and of establishing a governing body, may have influenced who would have been able to do so. The report on the Ace Rowing Club dinner claims Summerton ‘had given ungrudgingly of money and time in the service of ladies’ rowing’,[31] suggesting some financial imperatives as well as the commitment of time and energy. Given the biographical information available, her adult life may have been more affluent than might be supposed from her early life; alternatively, the amounts of money involved may have been relatively small. In either case, it highlights that involvement in sport had economic as well as personal implications, and makes the important point that this did not necessarily limit participation to the middle and upper classes. Indeed, a social profile such as Summerton’s is more easily reconciled with dominant narratives around class and gendered permissions for sport and physical activity for women: namely, that working class women had long been coded as more physically robust, and stronger, than their middle- and upper-class counterparts.[32]

Published references to Summerton as a rower herself are very sparse. She was captain of her club, Helen Smith Rowing Club (HSRC), in 1923, indicating that she was (or had been) a practising rower and not just an administrative figurehead. HSRC was in Barnes, based at Tom Green’s Boat House: a sporting institution on this stretch of river, home to a number of men’s and women’s clubs.[33] The club is referenced in the minutes of the WARA from the first recorded meeting in 1923 until 1937, but neither a founding date nor a date of dissolution has been identified. This is not particularly unusual, since many small rowing clubs (male and female) came and went, hiring equipment and space as they did so and leaving little behind by way of records.[34] Lacking private premises, the likelihood of any records surviving is further reduced; by way of contrast, WLARC, founded by Gentry, with its own boat house, offered both an engaged community and a consistent physical base to help preserve records and ephemera.

Sporting aims and ideology

Little is recorded in terms of Kate Summerton’s views on rowing, or her sporting ideology. In part, this may be due to her relatively short tenure on the WARA committee. In her four years of service she attended around twenty committee meetings, and at these meetings, there is scant evidence of addressing issues around the purpose of sport, or ideological concerns around its practice. The WARA formally adopted the ARA’s regulations for regattas and their generic laws of boat racing in 1927, ‘in so far as the Committee of the W.A.R.A. [sic] considers they apply to Women’s Rowing’ and ‘only as consistent with the W.A.R.A. [sic] Amateur definition’.[35] It is not clear at what point the definition referenced here was formed, or by whom: the minutes do not record this information, and the first available printed copy of the WARA constitution, rules and regulations dates from 1930. The early committees, which Summerton was involved with, do not appear to be explicitly concerned with what the organisation was aiming to achieve, or how it might do so.[36] Beyond this, Summerton is never in a position to have any casting votes – indeed, few significant discrepancies between different committee members are recorded in the minutes until the 1930s, where discussion of racing distance in particular illustrates a range of conflicting views.[37]

Yet from the outset, under Summerton’s leadership and throughout the interwar years, there is evidence of crossover between the WARA and the National Amateur Rowing Association (NARA). This is in striking contrast to the relationship between the ARA and the NARA. The NARA was formed as an alternative to the ARA in 1890, with an amateur definition that was significantly less exclusionary on the basis of class.[38] The near-total separation of the two until their merger in 1956 is indicative of the perceived cultural differences between them: even if, as the ARA claimed, ‘it was not the sixty-five years of bitterness and hostility that a section of our popular press would have us believe’, it concedes there had been ‘a measure of Town and Gown feeling’.[39] The organisation of men’s amateur rowing, then, reveals a substantial ideological divide that is not apparent within the women’s sport. The WARA appears to have drawn on the expertise, support and structures of both associations,[40] a feature that is suggestive of either a more liberal environment for the women’s sport, or a more equivocal one. In either case, it poses questions about the ideological compatibility of the WARA and the ARA. It also implies that any rationale behind the foundation of the WARA should be considered as quite different from that of the ARA, more driven perhaps by necessity and logistical need than by abstract ideology. In this context, the relative silence of the WARA on ideological questions, and the details of Summerton’s social background, become less surprising.

An article in the Manchester Guardian from 1926 offers a more detailed exploration of the aims of the WARA as articulated by Summerton. The reporter claims that Summerton ‘is not only concerned with competitive work and raising the technical standard’, but that ‘she wants to make rowing more enjoyable for all women who care about it’.[41] Beyond this, it is reported that ‘she has been teaching some of the older members of her own club how to manage their boats’ – women who ‘like to go for joy rows with their friends, but do not want to put other river craft in peril’. The focus here is on enjoyment, whether in competition or in ‘joy rows’, but health is also deemed important. According to the report, Summerton claims that if female rowers ‘take care of themselves…their exercise does them an immense amount of good’; and ‘while they may feel cold in their sketchy rowing costume of sweaters and shorts,… they are instructed to have a good rub down and change into warm, dry clothes before they leave the sheds’.[42]

The article also addresses questions of style and strain, the latter in particular a regularly voiced anxiety with regard to women’s participation in sport. Summerton is reported to claim that the WARA ‘is anxious that its members should not overstrain themselves’, and, as a result, that it has ‘introduced the idea of “style” into their rowing’.[43] It is argued that while women ‘used to huddle themselves up into positions which entailed strain’, they are now encouraged to adopt better posture, skills and technique; and ‘by organising competitions [the WARA] is encouraging the women and girls to take their work more seriously’.[44] Competition, then, is presented as a route to achieving particular goals: a different configuration of the established rhetoric which would place female health in opposition to competitive activity, rather than this more positive correlation. Style is constructed as countering strain not through limiting physical effort, but requiring it – albeit in a carefully prescribed manner – through greater postural control. While bodily control had been encouraged among girls and women in activities such as Swedish gymnastics, calisthenics,[45] the use of this control towards sporting ends is unusual. Whether it is suggestive of a conservative or a progressive approach from Summerton is unclear: while promoting competition, she perpetuates the notion of women’s sport serving a physiological purpose beyond the sport itself.[46] The introduction of style competitions appears to illustrate a conflicting impulse towards a conservative, protective approach to introducing women into sport, and a desire to develop them into better and more competitive athletes.

Summerton: stepping back from the WARA

The last WARA meeting attended by Summerton was in February 1927,[47] and in May of the same year Gentry reports that Summerton ‘had asked her to carry on as she herself was too unwell to do so for the present’.[48] No direct communication from Summerton to this effect is available. While HSRC remains on the committee for a further ten years, it is represented by different women, and no evidence of Summerton’s involvement in the sport after this point has been identified. In March 1928, the AGM ‘unanimously’ agreed to make her an Honorary Vice President, but there is no indication of any direct contact with her, or any further detail offered at all – including which committee member or members made this proposal.[49] The relative silence surrounding her departure is noteworthy within the context of these minutes: the loss of committee members would often provoke a vote of thanks or other commendation, or an expression of regret.[50] This was not universal,[51] but as the founder of the WARA, it is striking that the organisation itself does not pay her greater tribute – that even as its initiator, she leaves less with a bang than with a whimper. By contrast, at the annual dinner of Ace Rowing Club, attended by Summerton around the same time as her disappearance from the committee, it was reported that ‘the chairman’s toast of “the W.A.R.A.,” [sic] coupled with the name of Mrs. Summerton was very heartily accorded’.[52] The disparity here is unexplained.

Having stood down from the WARA committee, Summerton does not feature in any of the known records (beyond having a regatta trophy created in her name later in 1927)[53] until more than two decades later, in Gentry’s 1949 retrospective for Rowing magazine. Here, she embellishes the scant detail of Summerton’s departure recorded in the minutes at the time, claiming that ‘the heavy work involved, coupled with having to care for an invalid husband, was too much for Mrs. Summerton’s health’.[54] As a result, she writes, she ‘took over her duties’ as Honorary Secretary – a move which, ‘in due course…was confirmed by election’.[55] The hard work of rowing administration is emphasised, as is domestic responsibility; undertaking these two commitments simultaneously is painted as having negative, physical consequences. Through her account of Summerton’s withdrawal from the committee, Gentry not only reiterates common prejudices about the finite energy of female physiology, but also positions herself as being strong (and independent) enough to bear the heavy burden of administration, unlike her predecessor. She was single and childless; free of the external influence and demands of family life, she aligns more easily with the familiar narrative of female sporting commitment being outside of conventional family life. Whether Gentry’s report was an accurate representation of Summerton’s position and reasons for withdrawing from the WARA or something more mediated, the narrative is telling: it speaks to a hegemonic gendered hierarchy of responsibility for women, in which sport would be subordinate to familial responsibility.[56]

Summerton’s age is a striking element of the biographical detail uncovered. While historical narratives around women’s sport have tended to identify the young and single as the most likely to be active participants,[57] she would have been almost fifty, and married, on founding the WARA. Although some recent scholarship has challenged this narrative[58] – indeed, Jean Williams concludes her exploration of women’s sport with the observation that shifts in sporting participation ‘affected almost every demographic group from young girls to grandmothers’[59] – a greater body of research into women’s sporting administration and organisations here would provide useful perspective.[60] It is plausible that sports administration might attract women at a different stage of life than active participation or competition. Being older and married may have conferred some outward show of respectability on such an enterprise, but within the WARA, it was unusual: for the duration of Summerton’s involvement, there were only two other committee members, Gentry and Gedge (née Stuart), who in 1923 were twenty-two and twenty-four respectively.


Kate Summerton, the forgotten founder of the WARA, was at the heart of this research. This chapter represents an attempt to explore and analyse her life and contribution to women’s rowing administration, and to use biographical research to bolster the limited primary and secondary sources pertaining to her work. Despite this explicitly individual focus, the extent to which Gentry has featured in analysis is indicative of her active role within the sporting community, but also of her substantial contribution to the source material. Her role in shaping the historical record of the sport is significant, not least because in women’s rowing this record is only sparsely populated, as her outputs constitute a significant proportion of the available primary material. This chapter argues that Summerton has been “forgotten” at least in part because it was convenient for the narrative of the women’s sport that Gentry wished to perpetuate.

The sporadic reports of Summerton and her contribution to early women’s rowing administration in Britain demanded a more thorough consideration of her life course and her sporting biography. One result of this research is the indication that the social profile of such administration may have been more mixed than suggested in the majority of the existing literature.[61] More broadly, it has highlighted issues about women’s location in sporting historiography, and indeed, how their history has been written. Much of men’s sport history has focused on sporting structures such as clubs, competitions, and governing bodies that excluded women, many of which benefit from a line of succession to the present; the absence of women within these structures has been cited as a reason for their absence in historical analysis.[62] Yet, as this chapter has shown with the case study of rowing, some female sporting structures were in place, even if distinct from the male, and deeper exploration of such structures can offer valuable insight into the sport’s ideological and logistical development. Although from 1963 the WARA was not an independent entity in rowing, female influence on the sport’s administration and leadership continued to be significant. The Women’s Rowing Council (subsequently, Women’s Commission) – introduced to the ARA on the dissolution of the WARA, and initially comprised of its former administrators – remained active until 2004,[63] while the ARA (rebranded as British Rowing in 2009) was led by two successive female Chairs, Dame Di Ellis and Annamarie Phelps, from 1989 to 2018. The administrative influence of women in the sport of rowing has been – and continues to be – significant.

The alignment of amateur nomenclature and ideology (to some extent, at least) with a female sporting community is significant. Yet as Halpin notes, ‘much has been written about amateurism in British sport, but mostly in relation to men’s athletic pursuits; very few historians have looked at how the philosophy manifested itself in – or impacted upon – women’s sport’.[64] The question of what a female amateurism might mean is a suggestive one. In the case of rowing under the ARA and within elite educational establishments, amateur idealism was carefully delineated: explicitly gendered, and explicitly connected to issues of class. The elite, masculine construction of amateur rowing – ‘that entire uniformity and machine-like regularity of performance for which the eye looks at once in a University crew, and which is the glory and delight of the oarsman’[65] – did not openly engage with a process of improvement, as posited by Summerton. Rather, rowing was to be an expression of inherent ability and inherited social status, these being understood as pre-requisites for the delivery of the aesthetic and social performances expected of the amateur oarsman. There is a significant ideological gap between the amateur ideals entrenched in the ARA and the fact of female participation, quite apart from Summerton’s biography. Following Halpin, this research asks for a more nuanced consideration of how the idea of an amateur sportswoman might be understood, regardless of sport: how the tenets of amateurism beyond the purely monetary could be reconciled with class-driven constructions of female body and female purpose.

There remains an unlikeliness to Kate Summerton’s foundation and early leadership of the WARA given existing understandings of the organisation, of British rowing administration for men, and of the sporting and social context for women in this period. Her biography goes against the existing narrative grain. It therefore, necessarily, prompts further examination of the conditions within the women’s sport at the time of her involvement to determine whether she was an anomaly, or representative of the community her organisation represented. Further research into this area is required, both to inform analysis of Summerton, and, by extension, of the women’s amateur rowing community and administration more broadly. A rigorous reconsideration of female amateur rowing, and of women’s amateur sport, may be overdue.




[1] Carol Osborne and Fiona Skillen, ‘The State of Play: Women in British Sport History’, Sport in History 30, no. 2 (2010): 189-195; ‘Forum: Women in Sport’, Women’s History Review 25, no. 5 (2015): 655-661.

[2] Jo Halpin, ‘“Thus Far and No Farther”: The Rise of Women’s Hockey Leagues in England from 1910 to 1939’, Sport in History 37, no. 2 (2017): 146-163. Internationally, Castan-Vicente’s research into the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women places women’s involvement in international sports administration in a context of greater political agency and activism, and within a network of intellectuals (Florys Castan-Vicente, ‘International Intellectual Exchanges, Women and Sports: The International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women between 1949 and the 1970s’, Sport in History 37, no. 3 (2017): 353-357).

[3] For example in Christopher Dodd, The Story of World Rowing (London: Stanley Paul & Co., 1992); Eric Halladay, Rowing in England: A Social History: The Amateur Debate (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990); Neil Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing (London: Frank Cass, 1992); Stephen Wagg, ‘“Base Mechanic Arms”? British Rowing, Some Ducks and the Shifting Politics of Amateurism’, Sport in History 26, no. 3 (2006): 520-539.

[4] See for example Norman Baker, ‘Whose Hegemony? The Origins of the Amateur Ethos in Nineteenth Century English Society’, Sport in History 24, no. 1 (2004): 2; James Riordan, ‘Amateurism, Sport and the Left: Amateurism for All Versus Amateur Elitism’, Sport in History 26, no. 3 (2006): 471; Lincoln Allison, Amateurism in Sport: An Analysis and a Defence (London: Frank Cass, 2001), 20.

[5] Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, 111, 172-174, 191; Halladay, Rowing in England, 153-154, 187-188, 190. It does not appear in Dodd’s World Rowing. Cleaver gives a surprisingly detailed account, although it is almost a direct duplication of retrospective written by Amy Gentry for Rowing magazine, published in 1949 (Hylton Cleaver, A History of Rowing (London: Herbert Jenkins, 1957), 157-159).

[6] Amanda N. Schweinbenz, ‘Paddling Against the Current: A History of Women’s Competitive International Rowing between 1954 and 2003’ (PhD thesis, University of Western Ontario, 2007); ‘Selling Femininity: The Introduction of Women’s Rowing at the 1976 Olympic Games’, The International Journal of the History of Sport 26, no. 5 (2009): 654-672; ‘Against Hegemonic Currents: Women’s Rowing into the First Half of the Twentieth Century’, Sport in History 30, no. 2 (2010): 309-326.

[7] Argued by Schweinbenz in ‘Against Hegemonic Currents’: 318-319.

[8] The nomenclature predates her involvement in the association; her club was competitive despite being called ‘Ladies’, and was formed in 1926, after the WARA.

[9] See for example Linda Spurr, ‘Our Amy’, Rowing, April 1975, 5-6; ‘Obituary’, Rowing, July 1976, 25.

[10] Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, 111. As with reference to the WARA, ‘amateur’ is missing from the organisation’s name. The use of ‘women’ rather than ‘ladies’ to highlight a move away from recreation and towards competition is also noted by Schweinbenz, ‘Against Hegemonic Currents’: 318.

[11] Gentry is recorded as attending her first WARA meeting on May 24, 1923, and on July 30, 1923 a task is recorded as being delegated to her. The first written use of the title ‘Assistant Hon. Sec.’ in the minutes appears to be February 19, 1925, but Gentry’s involvement was active prior to this point.

[12] WARA meeting minutes, March 28, 1928. All available WARA meeting minutes are held at British Rowing headquarters in Hammersmith, London.

[13] WARA meeting minutes, March 29, 1939.

[14] ‘Obituary’, Rowing, July 1976, 25.

[15] ‘Review of 1969’, Almanac (1970), 49. This reports that Gentry’s ‘efforts in putting women’s rowing on the map have been unstinted and her great determination is well known beyond the borders of Surrey and the shores of England’.

[16] For more on the foundation of the ARA, see Dodd, World Rowing, 229-236.

[17] See Jane Humphries, ‘Women and Paid Work’, and Penny Summerfield, ‘Women and War in the Twentieth Century’, both in Women’s History: Britain, 1850-1945, ed. June Purvis (Oxford: Routledge, 1995), 72-89, 307-322.

[18] Hargreaves points to the ‘uneven’ pattern of progress for women during this period, specifically with regard to the economic status of the individual, but still asserts that it was a ‘remarkable’ time for the development of women’s sport (Jennifer Hargreaves, Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women’s Sports (London: Routledge, 1994), 113). See also Fiona Skillen ‘“Woman and the Sport Fetish”: Modernity, Consumerism and Sports Participation in Inter-War Britain’, The International Journal of the History of Sport 29, no. 5 (2012): 750-765; Selina Todd, ‘Young Women, Work, and Leisure in Interwar England’, The Historical Journal 48, no. 3 (2005): 789-809.

[19] This autonomy, too, was of course conditional: Hargreaves makes the important observation that, during the interwar years, ‘women were making choices about sports, but within structures of constraint’ (Sporting Females, 113).

[20] WARA Rule Book, 1930, held in the archives of the River & Rowing Museum, Henley-on-Thames. No earlier, written version of the constitution has been located.

[21] The only substantive difference between the two is that the ARA did not arrange regattas for its members as the WARA resolved to do – within the ARA, these were organised by individual clubs.

[22] Amy Gentry, ‘The Women’s Amateur Rowing Assn.: The Early Days’, Rowing, December 1949, 19. The ‘old rowing man’ is not identified. In a 1928 news article, Summerton is identified as ‘one of the founders’ but not further information is given (‘The “Ace” Rowing Club: Annual Dinner’, West London Observer, April 1, 1927, 3).

[23] Ibid.

[24] See June Purvis, ‘Emmeline Pankhurst in the Aftermath of Suffrage, 1918-1928’, in The Aftermath of Suffrage: Women, Gender, and Politics in Britain, 1918-1945, ed. Julie V. Gottlieb and Richard Toye (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2003), 19-36.

[25] Gentry, ‘The Women’s Amateur Rowing Assn.’, 19.

[26] R. D. Burnell, ‘Preface’, Almanac (1948).

[27] The proportion of space dedicated to the women’s sport – four pages out of a total of 128, three of which comprised rules, regulations and committee member lists – suggests there were limitations to this ‘comprehensive’ outlook.

[28] Gedge was voted out of the chair in 1938 (WARA meeting minutes, March 31, 1938); at the next meeting, she resigned as Treasurer, and Gentry also threatened to resign (WARA meeting minutes, April 13, 1938). Her election to the Chair took place at the 1939 Annual General Meeting; she also stated that she was ‘unwilling to stand again’ for the role of Honorary Secretary (WARA meeting minutes, March 29, 1939).

[29] John Summerton was born in Denton, Lancashire around 1871 and died in 1927. The Civil Registration Death Index records his death at age 56 in Q4 1927, volume 1d, 867; their marriage was recorded in the Civil Registration Marriage Index, Q3 1899, 261, 265. Gold blocking is ‘the action or process of embossing or blocking a surface, esp. a book cover, with gold leaf’. Oxford English Dictionary, ‘Gold Blocking’, (accessed January 30, 2019).

[30] Little detail about the Summerton household is available after 1901, so no judgment can be made regarding their social mobility or otherwise.

[31] ‘The “Ace” Rowing Club: Annual Dinner’, 3.

[32] See for example Beverley Skeggs, Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable (London: Sage, 1997), 94. Schweinbenz addresses this issue specifically in rowing (‘Against Hegemonic Currents’: 315-317).

[33] See Tim Koch, ‘Good Times in a Rat Infested Shack – Tom Green’s Boat House’, Hear The Boat Sing, (accessed June 12, 2018).

[34] See Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, 157-160.

[35] WARA meeting minutes, November 3, 1927. Minutes from as early as June 1923 imply, however, that these had been used for most of the organisation’s history.

[36] Halpin notes a similar silence in women’s hockey, prior to 1910 when the simple stipulation that ‘An amateur is one who does not play for money [italics in the original]’ (‘“Thus far and no further”’: 148).

[37] For example, WARA meeting minutes from April 20, 1932; July 4, 1938.

[38] Halladay, Rowing in England, 4; Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, 134; Dodd, World Rowing, 234-235.

[39] Almanac (1956), 6. The language of this is indicative, and initially at least, the division was more acrimonious than this commentary implies – even if by the second half of the twentieth century greater co-operation and mutual understanding between the two organisations was in evidence (see Wigglesworth, The Social History of English Rowing, 133, 163-164).

[40] There were limits to this engagement with the NARA, however: whether for reasons of independence or ideological difference, the WARA rejected the invitation to ‘associate themselves’ with the NARA in 1932 (WARA meeting minutes, May 20, 1932).

[41] ‘Rowing Women: Fifteen Clubs in London’, Manchester Guardian, November 1, 1926, 6.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid. This introduction refers to the advent of style competitions under WARA rules, recorded in WARA meeting minutes, September 20, 1926.

[44] ‘Rowing Women’, Manchester Guardian, 1926.

[45] See Hargreaves, Sporting Females, 57; Kathleen E. McCrone, Sport and the Physical Emancipation of English Women 1870-1914 (London: Routledge, 1988), 68-69.

[46] Women’s physical activity and sport was frequently justified in terms of improving their health, and by extension, that of their future children. See for example Patricia Vertinsky, The Eternally Wounded Woman: Women, Doctors and Exercise in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990), and McCrone’s discussion of medical and scientific discourses in relation to women’s sport (McCrone, Sport and the Physical Emancipation of English Women, 192-215).

[47] WARA meeting minutes, February 4, 1927.

[48] WARA meeting minutes, May 4, 1927.

[49] WARA meeting minutes, March 27, 1928.

[50] For example, ‘great regret’ is recorded at the resignation of Yvonne Gedge (née Stuart) as Honorary Treasurer, and also requested that she be asked to reconsider (WARA meeting minutes, April 13, 1938). The committee was ‘unanimous in thanking’ Beatrice Johansen (née Stratford) for her work ‘particularly in view of the many calls on her time’ (WARA meeting minutes, April 28 1943), and thanks are again extended to her at the first meeting after the Second World War (WARA meeting minutes, October 26, 1945).

[51] A number of appointments were named but never subsequently appeared as meeting attendees, or in the recorded minutes, and neither were their departures from the committee recorded. These included Edith Hays (appointed as Vice President in 1925); the ‘Misses Debenham’ (appointed for press relations in 1929); Suzanne Caverhill (appointed for foreign liaison in 1952).

[52] ‘The “Ace” Rowing Club: Annual Dinner’, 3.

[53] The Kate L. Summerton Cup was to be awarded for Junior Fours at the WARA Regatta (WARA meeting minutes, November 3, 1927).

[54] Gentry, ‘The Women’s Amateur Rowing Assn.’, 19.

[55] Ibid.

[56] On the influence of life stage on female sporting participation and leisure more broadly considered, see Hargreaves, Sporting Females and Claire Langhamer, Women’s Leisure in England, 1920-60 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000).

[57] This phenomenon is ordinarily connected to greater financial freedom and more time available for leisure. See Hargreaves, Sporting Females, 144; Catriona M. Parratt, ‘Little Means or Time: Working‐Class Women and Leisure in Late Victorian and Edwardian England’, The International Journal of the History of Sport 15, no. 2 (1998): 38.

[58] See Rafaelle Nicholson, ‘“Like a Man Trying to Knit”? : Women’s Cricket in Britain, 1945-2000’ (PhD thesis, Queen Mary University of London, 2015), 172-176; Jean Williams, A Contemporary History of Women’s Sport, Part One: Sporting Women, 1850-1960 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014).

[59] Williams, A Contemporary History of Women’s Sport, 262.

[60] Williams argues for this consideration of ‘the influential individuals and female networks shaping practices in Britain, at international level and then in global terms’, as a foundation of a more holistic and engaged history of women’s sport (Ibid., 1).

[61] For full examination of the human profile of the WARA, and evidence that it represented a more mixed social group, see Lisa Taylor, ‘The Women’s Amateur Rowing Association 1923–1963: a Prosopographical Approach’, Sport in History 38, no. 3 (2018): 307-330.

[62] See Osborne and Skillen, ‘Forum: Women in Sport’: 657.

[63] The 2004 Almanac was the last to include details of the Women’s Commission.

[64] Halpin, ‘“Thus Far and No Further”’: 148. Halpin further argues that the lack of ‘competitive profile’ in hockey, and its upper-class composition, meant that the idea of remuneration was essentially unimportant.

[65] T. S. Egan, in The Complete Oarsman, ed. R. C. Lehmann (London: Methuen & Co., 1908), 15.