This Women’s History Month, learn about Wilhelmina Wylie

Every year in March, countries around the world celebrate Women’s History Month to acknowledge the women who have changed our society for the better. Do your students know the story of Wilhelmina Wylie, one of our first female Olympians? 

Living history series Are You Tougher than Your Ancestors? explores historic periods and events through the eyes of children who were there. Each episode reveals the incredible true story of a resilient and courageous child from the past, and challenges modern-day children to emulate their experiences.

In the episode ‘Olympia!’, young swimmers Sienna and Paige attempt to beat the Olympic medal-winning time of Wilhelmina (‘Mina’) Wylie. Mina and her friend – and fierce competitor – Fanny Durack were Australia’s first female Olympians. Prior to their inclusion in the 1912 Stockholm Games, women were not allowed to compete in the Olympics.

This episode sees Sienna and Paige train and race at Mina’s home pool, Wylie’s Baths in Coogee. To really walk in Mina’s shoes, they also need to swim the Trudgen stroke, wear woollen bathers and forego goggles! Just as the girls are making progress, they are asked to perform one of Mina’s water ballets before they can race. Mina received minimal support to head to the Games, so she raised money through performances to help pay her way.

Will Sienna and Paige be able to handle the rough conditions, learn the Trudgen, complete the mermaid stunt, and beat Mina’s time? Will they be tougher than their ancestors?

Find clips and learning tasks to explore Mina’s story further in our free Are You Tougher than Your Ancestors? Teaching Toolkit. This F-6 teaching resource links content in Ancestors episodes to the History sub-strand of the F-6/7 Humanities and Social Sciences curriculum.

The complete series of Are You Tougher than Your Ancestors? is available to download via the ACTF Shop. Select episodes are also currently streaming on ABC iview.

See also:

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