Fanny Durack, the Irish-Australian who won the first women’s Olympic swimming medal

Durack caused scandal by rejecting the modest woollen swimsuit for a close-fitting one

In 1912-18, Fanny Durack broke a total of 12 world records. This success took her on tours of the US in 1918-19, accompanied by fellow Irish-Australian swimmer Mina Wylie.

In 1912-18, Fanny Durack broke a total of 12 world records. This success took her on tours of the US in 1918-19, accompanied by fellow Irish-Australian swimmer Mina Wylie.

On July 13th, 1912, a single page of The Irish Times carried two stories of significance in Irish women’s history. One related to the trial of four suffragettes for breaking windows of Dublin’s public buildings. In the next column was a report from the Stockholm Olympics. Irish-Australian Sarah “Fanny” Durack had won the first gold medal in women’s Olympic swimming.

Women participated in the modern Olympic games for the first time in Paris in 1900, when just 19 of the 1,200 competitors were women. Women continue to be under-represented at the games, with the Olympic Council aiming for gender balance in 2020.

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