Synchronized Swimming in Ontario, 1920–50s: Gender, Beauty, and Sport

in Sport History Review
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  • 1 St. Jerome’s University
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This article examines the history of synchronized swimming in Ontario, with a specific focus on Peterborough, between the 1920s and the 1950s. Two factors explain the rise and consolidation of “synchro” as a women’s sport in the period. The first factor relates to earlier changes in women’s sport in the interwar period, alongside the rise of modern hegemonic beauty culture. As synchro struggled for official recognition, coaches and swimmers embraced feminine beauty constructs to generate popularity for their sport. The second factor relates to the nationalistic approach to sport development in the 1940s and 1950s. Financial and ideological investment in sport as important for national health and physical fitness allowed synchro to grow and flourish. As exemplified by the Peterborough club, these two factors allowed Canadian women to play a formative role in the national and international development of synchro as a sport to produce fit and beautiful bodies.

The authors are with the Department of History, St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Wiseman ( is corresponding author.