Katharine Whitney Curtis

Mother of Synchronized Swimming

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About the Book

How do you invent an Olympic sport? For Katharine Whitney Curtis, it took the right idea, great talent, some good timing, and the determination to make it happen. The originator of synchronized swimming as we know it today, she even wrote the first book on the subject in 1936. But there was much more to her life and career. After the start of World War II, Curtis became a recreational director in the American Red Cross and followed the troops wherever the course of war took them, serving under Generals Patton and Eisenhower, before becoming a director of travel for the U.S. Army in Europe during the Cold War. Unbound by fear or the narrow expectations of society, this was a woman who lived ahead of her time, making things happen along the way. As her first biography, this book generously features Curtis’s own words, selected from more than 2,000 pages of letters, and contextualized by her surviving friends and family members.

About the Author(s)

Jordan Whitney-Wei is the great-grandnephew of Katharine Whitney Curtis. His previous writing and research focused on philosophy and poetry. He lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Bibliographic Details

Jordan Whitney-Wei

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 208
Bibliographic Info: 53 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6458-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3823-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1

The First Diversion: Beauty (1897–1942)
1. Noble Diversions 5
2. Out of Madison 16
3. Making History 26
4. A Change of Plans 40

The Second Diversion: Hope (1942–1946)
5. She’s Over There 53
6. Lifting Morale 66
7. Victory Lap 79
8. Loved and Lost 96

The Third Diversion: Harmony (1946–1980)
9. Rebuilding 115
10. Passing the Torch 136
11. A Rolling Stone 165

Chapter Notes 187
Bibliography 192
Index 197

Book Reviews & Awards

• Winner, Buck Dawson Authors Award—International Swimming Hall of Fame

• “This is the biography of a fascinating woman….Although Curtis was one of the founders of synchronized swimming, [this] book is a comprehensive description of her life, of which the sport was only one part. This account of her travels, adventures, and experiences documents the whole intriguing life of a complicated 20th-century woman…recommended”—Choice