In May of 1935, 16 Penn coeds made the trek down to the Schuylkill River, piled into a shell and made University history: They were the first women ever to row for Penn. It was an exciting time for Penn women, as the University also had recently announced coeds—previously relegated to intramural sports only—would be permitted to compete against other area colleges in such sports as field hockey and basketball. But it was the women rowers who caught the attention of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In covering the momentous event, the paper quoted crew coach Rusty Callow as saying the girls showed “lots of zest,” and reported the event as follows: “It was a little rough on the water, but sixteen coeds, aiming high for glory in a crew, piled in and somehow—gee, it was fun—rowed out a half-mile in a rather ‘funny’ direction to launch the sport at Penn. … You may think it’s a joke. You may even call it one, but this business of coeds going in for the manly sport of rowing is serious business for them and Callow. They may giggle and chatter. Women do, you know, but their minds are made up and it’s rowing or else.” My, how times have changed.
For more on this and other notable moments in Penn history, visit the University Archives website at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on November 17, 2005