Swimming Pretty

The Untold Story of Women in Water

From vaudeville tank shows to the Olympic arena, a groundbreaking history of how women found synchronicity―and power―in water.

Forthcoming from Liveright Publishing, an imprint at W.W. Norton, in June 2024.

“If you’re not strong enough to swim fast, you’re probably not strong enough to swim ‘pretty,’” said a young Esther Williams to impresario Billy Rose. Since the nineteenth century, tensions between beauty and strength, aesthetics and athleticism have both impeded and propelled the careers of female swimmers―none more so than synchronized swimmers, for whom Williams is considered godmother. In this deeply researched history, Vicki Valosik traces a century of aquatic performance for the first time, from Victorian variety theater and carnival shows to the 1984 elevation of synchronized swimming to Olympic status. Writing in eloquent prose, Valosik shows how early starlets like Lurline the Water Queen and Annette Kellerman boldly challenged restrictive codes set for women in water; more than just bathing beauties, they influenced lifesaving and physical-education programs, dropped national drowning rates, and paved the way for new generations of female swimming athletes. Brimming with reverence and mesmerizing detail, Swimming Pretty finally foregrounds an essential American sport.

Available for pre-order https://www.amazon.com/Swimmin...