Monday, July 30, 2012
Mermaids or Olympic Gold Medalists?
The St. Augustine Record, a Morris Newspapers Publication, today features a front page above-the-fold spread on women's Olympic swimming tryouts held in the mid 1920s at the old Alcazar Casino pool (now a Museum with shops)in St. Augustine. Just below the photo of the pool is the headline "Olympic champ Sybil Bauer was Ed Sullivan's girlfriend." Who was Sybil Bauer? Page 10A has a Pride of Olympians article showing Sybil Bauer first as a 1924 gold medalist for the 100 meter backstroke. In keeping with the 1920s (and beyond) era, the status of Sybil as Ed Sullivan's girlfriend was far more important for page 1 news than her Olympics gold medal. As in recent times, the twenties featured big debates over women's physical strength, stamina, mental toughness as sports competitors, especially in world Olympics. Those issues continue to be raised about women leaders, especially political women. As Aileen Riggin Soule, the first Olympic springboard diving champ, later pointed out that the young women in the modern Olympics era were "far superior" to her group of winners. Regardless, these women in the 1920s were first and as Aileen says, "There was no one to copy. We had to do things on our own initiative." Remember these early women when you watch the Olympics in 2012. Women swimmers today become medalists and have outgrown the "mermaid" status of yesteryear. Someday perhaps women leaders will be allowed to progress to leadership status rather than the female whose private life is subject to criticism and judgment from those who are no better or different.