"The amusement of the second day..."
The first record of women rowing on the pond is during the two day Regatta that was held on August 13th and 14th, 1856. It was the last race of the second day, and women from Quidi Vidi Village were up against women from the Battery. The Quidi Vidi Village crew consisted of Ellen Walsh (stroke), Mary Brace, Jennie King, Lizzie Hauton, Crissie Squires, and Jessie Needham, with Robert Hennebury as the coxswain. Unfortunately, the names of the Battery crew were never recorded and have been lost to history. The Quidi Vidi women rowed in the six oared gig "Darling" and the Battery women rowed the six oared gig "Banshee". There is no record of times or prizes.
While the media of the time treated the women's crews as nothing more then a novelty, the Quidi Vidi crew was inducted into the Royal St. John's Regatta Hall of Fame in 1989 as a recognition of their brave contribution to the start of women's rowing.
"The amusement of the second day was considerably enhanced by the introduction of female rowers who pulled well and heartily for the prize."
- The Times, 16 August, 1856
"One novelty attracted some attention, the rowing of women upon the lake in two gigs, a practice hitherto not adopted in St. John's."
- The Newfoundland Ledger, 15 August, 1856
Gert Reardigan " ... just decided to give it a try"
The next official record of women rowing in our Regatta appears in the 1949 official programme. Gert Reardigan, a rower and well known coxswain, and another Hall of Fame inductee, was a member of one of the women's crews that year. In an interview with The Evening Telegram on June 3rd, 1995, Reardigan recounts that experience, recalling her former teammates Mabel Payne, Laura Rose, Marg Power, Mary Byrne, and Ann Maher.
"It was the first time women rowed the pond in 50 years. I didn't really think about rowing, but we were down there and just decided to give it a try. There were three girls crews and we came second."
- The Evening Telegram, 3 June, 1995Gert Reardigan rowed on and off during the 1950's and 1960's, until in the early 1970's she decided to try her hand at being a coxswain. Just as the idea of women rowers took many years to become the norm, being accepted as a coxswain also took time and patience. It was especially long for her - being the first female coxswain - to be accepted by the members of the all-male Coxswain's Association. But this didn't stop her. In 1977, she won by steering the Outer Cove crew to the midget championship of 5 minutes, 10 seconds.
Gert Reardigan was inducted into the Royal St. John's Regatta Hall of Fame in 1996.
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