“From the archive, 24 July 1930: Women free to swim without fear of arrest”
“Few realise the hard work that their mothers and grandmothers have had to get the taboo removed from fresh-water swimming for women. I remember how bitter it was in our childhood to be told, when we saw our brothers going joyously out to swim in any river or pond handy: “Little ladies may only bathe in the sea; God made the canals and rivers for boys. You are very rude girls to want to go.”
Even last century the logical mind of girlhood asked: “Why is salt water more moral than fresh?” In the tropical days of the summer of 1881, with the thermometer soaring into the eighties a poor woman of Coal Court, Drury Lane, was seen bathing in the lake, arrested at once by a scandalised policeman, and dragged before a magistrate, while 200 male persons were left happily swimming.
The bright young people of that day were deeply moved at such injustice, at such a scandalous example of laws made by men for men. The leaven of sex equality was working in our veins; we were out for the “right to swim” as well as the “right to vote.”…
In North London a few enthusiasts worked hard for years to get some of the Heath ponds open for women at least one day a week. At the first informal meeting our plan was mocked out of court. All the men present sat back in their chairs and roared with laughter at the very thought. The crowds would be so great on the banks that people would be crushed to death, and the tramways and North London Railway would run special excursions to see such a sight. However, we worked on, heedless of ridicule, owing much to the influence of the few women on the L.C.C. and the Borough Councils.”