Fanny Durack

1. Tell your students that there was once a time, when women were not allowed in public swimming venues. Then ask your class to brainstorm why they think women were not allowed to participate in Olympic swimming. Ask students to explore the reasons why women wanted to swim.

2. Use Trove to locate articles about attitudes to mixed bathing around the turn of the twentieth century. You could start with these two newspaper items:

The item from The Sydney Morning Herald is a Letter to the Editor. Ask students to write their own Letter to the Editor, imagining they are writing in about 1900, and citing their support for changing the rule that women should not swim in the company of men.

Ask students to research Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie, and their contribution to the early days of women’s swimming at the Olympics. You may wish to highlight the opportunity to listen to Mina Wylie’s oral history on the National Library of Australia’s website. 

3. Invite students to locate the results of Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie’s swimming race at the Stockholm Olympics. Compare their times with the current world record for the women’s 100 metre event. Ask students to brainstorm the reasons behind the marked difference in times between 1912 and the present.

4. Task students with researching the lives of famous Olympians, both male and female. Compile a wall of students’ research results and follow this activity with a brainstorm on the shared qualities of these sportspeople, their approach to their sport and their goals.