Swimming with the Spit: Feminist oral sport history and the process of ‘sharing authority’ with C20th female swimming champions in Sydney

Swimming with The Spit cover art_final.indd

 By Tanya Evans (Macquarie University, Sydney)

Thursday 6th October, 6-7.30 pm

McCrae 336 in The Department of History

 at Royal Holloway, University of London

Tanya’s talk is based on her research as part of a local and community history of the Spit Amateur Swimming Club, which began on the lower north shore of Sydney in 1917. It reveals some of the tensions involved in writing feminist oral sport history and the ways in which shared authority can be negotiated between historians and sportswomen when writing a community sport history. Competitive male and female Spit swimmers were segregated into separate clubs, swam in different baths and at different times until the mid-1960s.

Tanya used feminist oral histories of the Spit’s female swimming champions in order to trace the ways in which swimming and its historical meanings have changed for women in twentieth-century Australia. Her research reveals the lack of cultural scripts local female swimming stars could call upon to narrate their life stories and sporting success, the different ways in which they want their lives remembered and how historians might approach the construction of these histories.


Tanya Evans is a Senior Lecturer in the Modern History Department at Macquarie where she teaches Australian and Public History and we are delighted to welcome her as a Visiting Fellow to the Bedford Centre. She specializes in the history of the family, poverty and sexuality. She is passionate about researching ordinary people and places in the past and incorporating ordinary people and places in the process of her research.  Her three books so far have been about the history of ‘illegitimacy’, poverty and philanthropy.  Her previous book, Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial New South Wales (New South, 2015) which examined the history of Australia’s oldest surviving charity, The Benevolent Society, was written in collaboration with family historians and won the NSW premier History Award for Community and Regional History in 2016. She is currently writing a history of motherhood in Australia while continuing to research the different ways in which family history is practiced in Australia, England and Canada.

As always, our seminars are open to everyone but this one will particularly appeal to Gender, Public, Family and Oral History researchers and students, but Tanya is keen to pitch her work to a very wide variety of audiences.  So do join us for what promises to be an illuminating and enjoyable evening followed by refreshments. If you have any questions about this event please email: N.J.Phillips@rhul.ac.uk.



From Bloomers to Burkinis: The Same Old Story? by Sarah Ansari

While we were on our summer break, Sarah Ansari, Professor of South Asian History at Royal Holloway and a member of the Bedford Centre wrote about her views on the controversial treatment of Muslim women wearing ‘Burkinis’. It was first posted on the Historians for History blog in August and we are pleased to be able to reblog it here.

Historians for History

194d1b1f784d4a3e99d71358a2473da6 Bathing Dresses, as featured in Godey’s Lady Book, 1864

The recent photos in the media showing armed police apparently forcing a Muslim woman wearing a burkini on a French beach to remove it, or alternatively some of her outer clothing, in public, and then seemingly fining her, highlight beautifully the challenges facing historians in a post-modern historical world. What the ‘facts’ of the matter really are is no longer relevant. It is what we believe to be happening that counts, and so it is our interpretation of those facts that matters.  Whether or not it was really a dreaded burkini (an outfit “not respecting good morals and secularism”) – at best, unhygienic, or at worst, to quote the French Prime Minister, part of the “enslavement” of (Muslim) women, this episode underlines yet again how central Muslim women’s bodies are to wider questions of identity, community and ‘modernity’. For the last…

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