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Rowing Australia

Australian Women's Rowing Council

The women were separately represented by The Australian Ladies' Rowing Council, later the Australian Women's Rowing Council which was absorbed into RA in 1979.

The Australian Women's Rowing Council, then styled The Australian Ladies' Rowing Council, was created before the AARC on 13 May 1920 at the Telegraph Chambers Brisbane. It arose from a meeting of representatives of the lady rowers of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland and was called by the Honorary Secretary of the Brisbane Ladies' Rowing Club.

On 15 March 1920 an Interstate Women's Fours race was conducted in conjunction with the Interstate men's eight race in Brisbane. A proposal to allow the conduct of an Interstate Women's Four Oared race at the Men's Interstate Championships was defeated at the Interstate Conference on 22nd April 1921.

Whilst this was the first official Interstate Championship, other Interstate contests were already being conducted. Below is a picture of a representative South Australian crew who won an interstate contest on Anzac Day in 1919.

1919 Contest

The victorious South Australian crew, winners of an Interstate Contest on 26th April 1919

Bow: M E Donnell, 2: V Rossiter, 3: M Thomas, Str: G Thomas, Cox: E R Kriehn

The following is extracted from Rose Evan's "Sixty Years of Women's Rowing 1920-1980":


ULVA "Bertha" trophy

The ULVA Trophy, affectionately known as "Bertha"

"This year (1920) saw the presentation of the existing trophy for the Australian Champion Fours by the Queensland Branch of the Licensed Victuallers of the Commonwealth of Australia, as a perpetual trophy for annual, interstate races. Atop the trophy, cast in sterling silver, stands a young oarswoman, holding her oar and wearing the rowing fashion of that era, viz., wide-brimmed hat, sailor top, billowy bloomers and lace-up shoes and stockings. This trophy was made from one hundred silver guineas by a craftsman, who used as his model the stroke of South Australia's winning crew, Miss Dorothy Arnold. It is interesting to note that in the early 1960's a suggestion was put forward that the statuette be melted down, and a more modern version constructed in its place, but this met with such violent opposition from current oarswomen that the proposal was withdrawn. Affectionately known to Australian oarswomen as "Bertha", this trophy would most certainly be valued nowadays at considerably more than one hundred guineas."

The first Interstate Women's Race was conducted in 1901. Again we refer to Rose Evan's work:

"In 1901, the Women's Interstate Sculling Race was one of the many festivities. Contestants were from Victoria, with one Sydney sculler also participating. The event was won by Mrs. Cassie McRitchie in an open style skiff, which is still housed at a Victorian Women's Rowing Club. The trophy of rubies and pearls set in a gold bracelet was presented to the winning sculler by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. organised to celebrate Federation.

Cassie McRitchie

Cassie McRitchie in 1901 in the scull used to win the Inaugural Championship

"From that date, organised sculling competition at Interstate level lapsed until the Australian Women's Rowing Council decided to add the Championship event to their annual programme in 1963. The first Australian Women's Sculling Championship was staged at Brisbane, and the perpetual trophy known as the Nell Slatter Trophy was donated by the Oueensland Women's Rowing Association, and presented to the winner, Mrs. Helen Evans, of N.S.W."

Nell Slatter trophy

Nell Slatter Trophy

It is interesting to note that the first recorded women's race was at the Shoalhaven Regatta in NSW on Australian Day in 1865. Robyn Florance in her book Shoalhaven River Regattas 150 years - 1855-2005 records that Miss Marion Munro defeated Miss M McLaren in the third race of the day in single sculls and Miss Munro defeated Miss Conroy in the fifth. Womens boating was popular as a recreation through to the turn of the century but was not a sport until the towards the end of the Victorian era when it was deemed appropriate for women to participate in such activities.

The Original Women’s Council

Members of the original Women's Council:

  • President: Lady Helen Munro Ferguson
  • Vice-Presidents
    • SA: Lady Weigall
    • QLD: Miss Edris Marks
  • Councillors
    • NSW: Alice Bentley & Florence Crozier
    • SA: Mabel A Sowter & Mary A Persse
    • QLD: Winifred Lea & J B Abercrombie
    • TAS & VIC: Joined in 1921

The major difference between the men's and women's councils was that the women's council permitted membership of clubs direct to the federal council. This was initially because the States did not have Ladies' Rowing Associations but was retained after State Ladies' Associations were formed. For example the Victorian Ladies Rowing Association was not formed until 1925, the NSW Ladies Association until 1929 and the SA Ladies Rowing Association until 1934.

The first two resolutions of the new Women's Council were as follows:

First Resolution

That a Council, having for its principal object the control of ladies' interstate rowing contests be and the same is hereby formed,

Second Resolution

That the following constitution and rules be adopted:

  1. The name of the Council shall be "The Australian Ladies' Rowing Council".
  2. The Council shall consist of all approved ladies' rowing clubs or rowing associations in Australia.
  3. The objects of the Council shall be:
    1. To promote and in all respects control interstate boat races,
    2. To act as a court of appeal for the settlement of all matters in dispute in connection with such boat races, and
    3. To make rules for the government of interstate boat-races with power from time to time to alter vary or rescind the same.
  4. The management of the affairs of the Council shall be vested in two councillors selected by the club or clubs or association in each state taking part in the interstate boat-races and they shall elect a chairwoman and honorary secretary from their own number.
  5. The Council may elect a president. Each state elect one vice-president from their state represented thereon who shall all hold office until deposed and who shall be eligible to attend and vote at meetings of the council.
  6. The chairwoman and honorary secretary shall always be councillors of the state in which the interstate boat race is next to be rowed and within one calendar mouth after the date of each race the honorary secretary shall forward all books papers and moneys belonging to the Council to her successor in office.
  7. No rule or resolution passed at any meeting of the Council shall be amended repealed or rescinded except by a two-thirds majority of all the affiliated states represented at a subsequent meeting.
  8. All matters affecting interstate boat-races my be dealt with and decisions thereon arrived at between meetings of the Council in manner following (that is to say):

    The club of clubs or association requiring the Council's decision may apply in writing to the honorary secretary for the time being for the same and such honorary secretary shall immediately on receipt of such application notify all the councillors of the matter raised and ask for their state's decision thereon and on receipt of same shall forthwith advise the applicant of the decision of the majority of the states.

    Any decision arrived at in this manner shall be binding until the next meeting of the Council is held when any matter so decided shall be re-opened and discussed by the Council when it may be confirmed amended or reversed.
  9. Each state shall pay an affiliation fee to the honorary Secretary for the time being of 5s. per annum for each of its councillors.
  10. So far as applicable 'conference' decisions and rules governing men's interstate eight-oar races and sculls shall be adopted by the Council.

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