Sunday, 30 May 2010
Woman rowing champ, Venice, 1700s
My friend Linda has just returned from Venice with this Museo Correr picture for me ....which leads to a quest, a discovery.
This woman, Maria Boscola da Marina, was a regatta rowing champion for 40 years. She was also the mother of five boys and a smallholder too. She rowed her produce from Marina de Chiogga to the Rialto markets in a caorlina, a six-oared vessel, about ten metres long, with a crescent-shaped bow and stern.
The question is, was she unique or typical? More the latter it seems: Venetian women participated in regate from at least 1493. And how could it be that women were accepted as rowers?
Partly because the church and nobility were big supporters of regate - she was not going against the grain. (However, after 1784 women did not race in regate for almost two hundred years.)
Partly because any market trader uses the most appropriate and cheap form of transport to get her wares to market. In a canal-based city it would be as normal for women to row as in other countries it is normal to walk barefoot ten miles with a bundle of produce on your head. A woman on the water was not something anomalous then.
And what's Maria Boscola da Marina holding in this image? Banners from five regate. She won the first in 1740 and the last in 1784.
There's a 2007 novel about her (because there are no facts)- Maria della laguna by Alda Monico, published by Corbaccio (see cover pic, right). Unfortunately it's only in Italian yet. Roll on the translation, for all the English-speaking women who love their small boats.And for all of us interested in the parts gendered transport and mobility play in working lives.