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JENNY LANDRETH discusses SWELL: A WATERBIOGRAPHY
These days, swimming may seem like the most egalitarian of pastimes, open to anyone with a swimsuit – but this wasn’t always the case. In the 19th century, swimming was exclusively the domain of men, and access to pools was a luxury limited by class. Women were (barely) allowed to swim in the sea, as long as no men were around, but even into the 20th century they could be arrested and fined if they dared dive into a lake.
It wasn’t until the 1930s that women were finally, and reluctantly, granted equal access. Swell is the story of the women who made that possible, a thank-you from author Jenny Landreth to the fearless ‘swimming suffragettes’ who took on the status quo, fought for equal access, and won.
Part social history, part joyful memoir, Swell uncovers a world of secret swimming in the face of these exclusions and shines a light on the ‘swimming suffragettes’. It celebrates some amazing achievements, some ridiculous outfits and some fantastic swimmers who challenge the stereotypes of what women are capable of.
Jenny Landreth is a script editor and writer. She has written two guide books – on the great trees of London, and on the best places to swim in the capital. Jenny was the main contributor to the Guardian’s weekly swimming blog, writing on everything from pool rules, to swimming with children, and where to swim in New York. She lives in London.