Swell: A Waterbiography (out of print)
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. This is the story of the women who made that possible, a thank-you to the fearless 'swimming suffragettes' who took on the status quo, fought for equal access, and won. Part social history, part 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. It's also the story of how Jenny eventually came to be a keen swimmer herself. Swell is a joyful hymn to the sport and an exploration of why swimming attracts so many women. Ultimately, it is a book dedicated to our brilliant swimming foremothers who collectively made it possible for any woman to plunge in with alacrity, anywhere we choose.
A funny and bold account of how women fought their way into the water, and of what they did once they got there
Fascinating and full of possibility, it is also properly snort-with-giggles-on-the-commute funny. Alexandra Heminsley If you love swimming you'll love this. If you hate swimming, you'll still love this. From over-upholstered matrons gingerly climbing down the steps of wheeled bathing huts, to young girls swimming jawdropping distances up The Thames, this captivating book bowls along with wit and charm. Jo Brand A brilliantly funny book that made me feel part of a proud and intrepid community of amphibian women Josie Long If this marvellous watery odyssey charting women's swimming history doesn't make you want to jump in, I will eat my woollen bikini. Doon Mackichan A wry and inspiring mix of memoir and social history Melissa Harrison Very disappointed. I thought this was going to be a pictorial history of the bikini. John O'Farrell Swell is part personal memoir, and part social history. Even if you aren't as wildly enthusiastic about swimming as the author, you'll find her book written with humour and fondness Lifeboat Magazine As we jump into the waves with glee, Jenny Landreth asks us to consider 'swimming suffragettes' who kicked hard for change in the once male-dominated world of swimming, less than 100 years ago. Written through the prisms of memoir and social history, it's the quest for equality that rises to the top of a poignant narrative. Coast
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. @jennylandreth