Curling is a popular winter sport among countries where four seasons exist, especially in the Americas and in European nations. It is a sport counted among the competitions in international games like the Winter Olympics. Curling uses stones that players must land on a target area through a sheet of ice. It is quite related to other popular recreational activities like shuffleboard, boules, and bowls. Many countries have a long and proud history with regards to curling as a sport and a recreation. During this period, similar to almost any field, curling as a sport is thought to be limited to men only. However, more and more women have proven themselves as incredible curling athletes. One of the first countries notable in this regard is Switzerland where even at the turn of the 20th century, women were documented to have played and enjoyed the sport alongside men.
Women Curling at St. Moritz
During the 1910s, women were still lived under the close scrutiny of a limiting, male-oriented society. Their recreational activities are mainly held in the comfort of indoor spaces like knitting, sewing, and socializing with fellow women. It was unconventional at the time to hear of women playing sports outside. Such was the case of the first women curlers of Switzerland who were photographed playing the sport alongside men in St. Moritz in 1903. The photograph was published in the 17th volume of the Badminton Library of Sports and Pastimes with an article written by E.H. Lawson Williams. He narrated a day visiting St. Moritz at the time and described how a newly formed ladies’ curling club was seen playing the sport.
Williams described how the sport was easily playable by women as it needed less strength because of the slippery ice and light stones. Curling then was becoming an alternative winter sport for women other than ice skating. Other accounts of women’s early curling history in Switzerland was found in a family album. The photo was labeled as “Heather” and similar to the first photograph, showcased a woman enjoying the sport. Another is a postcard of a mixed curling game between men and women of St. Moritz which was dated December 7, 1905.
Curling Clubs for Ladies in Switzerland
Similar to the situation today, many tourists and locals in the early 20th century flocked to the mountainous Swiss countryside to enjoy winter resort activities like skiing, ice skating, and curling. Some resorts had curling clubs with branches for male and female members. The Royal Caledonian Curling Club, The Davos Curling Club, and the St. Moritz Curling Club were notable in being the first clubs to have women members. In the middle of the first decade of the 1900s, curling has spread throughout a lot of territories from its origins in Scotland. A writer for the Royal Caledonian Curling Club’s Annual magazine, William J. Orthwein, boasted how in their club, the sport is enjoyed by members of both sexes from various parts of the world. There were Austrians, Americans, Germans, Swedes, Belgians, and Hollanders among their members. The clubs’ female members, most of which were wives or family and friends of the male members, were included Annual’s 1903 issue where it proudly listed 13 of them.