“It’s impossible to tell sometimes. They may chloroform me. They put chloroform on bouquets, but I always hold them off, and still the chloroform may make me sleepy. Sometimes they lean over the rail and drop poison on the track. Oh, I tell you, it is worse than horse races.”
Bertha von Berg’s response when asked about her chances of defeating rival Exilda LaChapelle in a six-day race. San Francisco Chronicle, September 10, 1879, “Before the Battle.”
Book Summary for Pedestriennes
The Industrial Revolution did more than create millions of jobs that improved the standard of living for most Americans. Maybe fore the first time since the Roman Empire, large segments of a society experienced leisure time. Big cities thrived and built theaters and opera houses for the new upper-class seeking nightlife.
Organized sports appeared. Baseball and football were both invented in 1869, but they struggled to gain an audience against the nation’s most popular sport, endurance walking. While men enjoyed the lion’s share of crowds and big paydays, a small group of professional women walkers also earned a fine living, attracted attention and generated controversy.
The pedestriennes battled criticism from society and religious groups about their off-track behavior and their scandalous outfits, which often revealed bare elbows and knees.
The walkers also fought within their ranks as their popularity dropped due to trash-talking with the press, overreaching rivalries, graft, race-fixing, a failed extortion attempt that led to a manager’s suicide, and a murder.
Although popular for only about five years, the pedestriennes’ influence is with us today, as they set the stage for the revival of the Olympic Games, the modern sports model, and the suffragist movement.
With a Foreward by NYT Bestselling author, Ben Montgomery who wrote,
Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, The Leper Spy, and The Man Who Walked Backward.
Praise for the Pedestriennes:
“…a masterpiece of American history. Any writer would be proud of such an achievement.”
“The Pedestriennes explores the fascinating history of these remarkable female athletes, their triumphs and their setbacks.”
Midwest Book Review
“…a fascinating story…”
Kara Thom, author, Becoming an IronMan
“…an absorbing account of the redoubtable women walkers…”
Edward S. Sears, author, Running Through the Ages
“Harry Hall has done a remarkable job writing a complete history of this forgotten part of American history.”
Francie Larrieu Smith, five-time Olympian, former Head Men’s and Women’s Cross-Country and Track and Field Coach, Southwestern University
“Written with a fine sense of putting readers in the arena…”
John Darrouzet, co-writer and producer of “The Contract,” starring Morgan Freeman and John Cusack.