Women's rowing is the participation of women in the sport of rowing. Women row in all boat classes, from single scull to coxed eights, across the same age ranges and standards as men, from junior amateur through university-level to elite athlete. Typically men and women compete in separate crews although mixed crews and mixed team events also take place. Coaching for women is similar to that for men.
At an international level, the first women's races were introduced in the 1954 European Rowing Championships. Women's rowing was added to the Olympic Games programme in 1976 at a distance of 1000 metres then extended to 2000 metres in 1985, the distance raced at the 1988 Summer Olympics and thereafter, consistent with men's rowing events at the Olympics.
For most of its history, rowing has been a male dominated sport. Although rowing's roots as a sport in the modern Olympics can be traced back to the original 1896 games in Athens, it was not until the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal that women were allowed to participate (at a distance of 1000 metres) – well after their fellow athletes in similar sports such as swimming, athletics, cycling, and canoeing. This increased the growth of women's rowing because it created the incentive for national rowing federations to support women's events. Rowing at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London included six events for women compared with eight for men.
Despite its male domination, women's competitive rowing can be traced back to the early 19th century, and an image of a women's double scull race made the cover of Harper's Weekly in 1870. Wellesley College in Massachusetts was the first school to organize a competitive rowing team for women in the late 19th century. The 19th Century English rower Ann Glanville achieved national celebrity becoming known as the champion female rower of the world; her all-women crew often winning against the best male teams. In 1892, four young women started what became ZLAC Rowing Club in San Diego, California, which is recognized today as the world's oldest continuously existing all-women's rowing club. In 1927, the first Women's Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge was held. For the first few years it was an exhibition, and it later became a race. Ernestine Bayer, called the "Mother of Women's Rowing", formed the Philadelphia Girls' Rowing Club in 1938.
In 1954, the first international women's events were added to the European Rowing Championships. Racing distances for women in international events were increased to 2000 metres in 1985 which was the distance raced at the 1988 Summer Olympics and thereafter, consistent with men's rowing events at the Olympics. In 1988, the first Henley Women's Regatta was held. Henley Royal Regatta first included a women's singles event over the full course in 1993, followed in 2000 by eights (now Remenham Challenge Cup) and 2001 by quadruple sculls (now Princess Grace Challenge Cup). In 1997 one of the last bastions of rowing was breached when the Leander Club, one of the oldest rowing clubs in the world, voted to admit women as members. This rule met a condition imposed by UK Sport and qualified Leander to receive a £1.5 million grant for refurbishment from the Lottery Sports Fund. The Club was opened to women in 1998 and appointed Olympic medallist, Debbie Flood, as its captain in 2012.
At the international level, women's rowing traditionally has been dominated by Eastern European countries, such as Romania, Russia, and Bulgaria, although other countries such as Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and New Zealand often field competitive teams. The United States also has had very competitive crews, and in recent years these crews have become even more competitive given the surge in women's collegiate rowing due to Title IX. Because Title IX mandates equal money spent on men's and women's sports, rowing is particularly useful due to the extremely high costs of equipment per athlete. Therefore, many schools open a rowing program only to women to financially counteract the prevalence of men's sports. In the United States, it is important to note that Women's Rowing is an NCAA sport, while Men's Rowing chooses to remain governed by its own regulatory body, the Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA). The IRA, formed in 1895, preceded the NCAA by at least ten years and provided a guideline for the rules of eligibility and sportsmanship later adopted by the NCAA when it was formed.
- "Rowing". World Rowing. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
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- See for example, International Rowing Federation sections on World Rowing Masters Regatta and World Rowing Sprints
- "What makes a successful women’s coach?". World Rowing. 8 December 2014. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- "Women in rowing". World Rowing. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- "Feature: the impact of Olympic inclusion on women’s rowing". World Rowing. 12 June 2013. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
- Schweinbenz, Amanda (2014). Against Hegemonic Currents: Women's Rowing in the First Half of the Twentieth Century. Women in Sports History (Routledge). pp. 124–125. ISBN 9781317985235.
- "Ann Glanville". Kernoweb. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
- Hunt, Bruce. "Ann Glanville". Retrieved 26 December 2009.
- "About ZLAC and its History". ZLAC Rowing Club. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
- "Leander voted for women". REGATTA OnLine. Retrieved 2006-12-23.
- "Leander rowing club elects Debbie Flood as first female captain". BBC News. 8 December 2012.
- List of Olympic medalists in rowing (women)
- "For US women’s eight, golden road begins in college". The Boston Globe. 21 October 2012. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
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