Barbara Morry Fraumeni graduated in 1972 with a degree in economics before earning a Ph.D in economics from Boston College. She is a key part of Wellesley's storied history in competitive rowing.
Fraumeni rowed in the first women's national championship in 1966, competing as a member of the Seattle Tennis Club before going on to compete in subsequent nationals as a member of the Lake Washington Rowing Club. The recipient of LWRC's Aldina Nash Award in 1968, she would go on to win five national lightweight rowing championships from 1967-1969. At the international level, she served as an alternate on the United States Women's National Team. She continues to be active in the sport today, serving as an umpire at Boston's world-famous Head Of The Charles Regatta since 1990.
50 years ago I rowed in the first US Women’s Rowing Nationals. As you know, last spring Wellesley won the Division III team championship for the first time. Congratulations! I could not have wished for a better timing to be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame. I thank Wellesley for this honor.
In my day, women were not supposed to row. I suspect that the closest comparison to today is women boxing. There was clear opposition to women rowing, even in Seattle. At one point, someone donated an old shell, an eight, to the Lake Washington Rowing Club (LWRC) women. Before the women could use it, a male team stole it; no one would force them to return it to us. So the eight rowed in a lapstreet Pocock that we borrowed from the Museum of History and Industry and in an eight that had been cut in half to fit in Frank Cunningham’s garage.
In 1969, before my participation in my last nationals, some male members of LWRC threatened to kick us out of the club. We changed our oar trim color and had papers ready in case we had to create a new rowing club at the last minute. The irony is that we were then chosen as the 2nd U.S. National Rowing team; prophetically our new oar colors were red, white, and blue. It was agreed after our return from Europe (the all-male US rowing officials had previously blocked women’s rowing in the Olympics) that women should row in the Olympics for the first time in 1976. In that first Olympics for female rowers, the Americans won a silver medal in the single and a bronze medal in the eight, which was an incredible accomplishment given the extent to which American rowers had to catch up to others, particularly in those days. More recently, the women’s US eights have dominated international competition. Even though I did not get to row for the national team in 1969, as I was an alternate, there is nothing like the honor of wearing your country’s colors and representing it as I did even from the sidelines.
Perhaps only rowers can appreciate the beauty of rowing. For myself, rowing alone, the peace, hearing the sounds of the oars, the slide, the boat, and watching the pattern of the oars and the boat as it skimmed through the water with every stroke being a challenge to create beauty. Sometimes I even rowed with my eyes shut to develop my sense of sound as I attempted to make the boat sing!
My favorite quote is from the official publication of the predecessor to US Rowing. At the end of the article about the 1st women’s nationals, the article stated:
“Even the most critical male observer had to admit it was a most auspicious inaugural. They could also observe that many contestants refuted the idea that girl athletes must be unattractive. As many could have been likely candidates for any bathing beauty (sic) line-up.”
Do I regret coming to Wellesley? Absolutely NOT. You all know the branding slogan “Wellesley effect,” which is so true. Also, at Wellesley, my passion for rowing morphed into other passions: My passion for economics and my passion for my husband who is here; we’ve been married for 45 years. Again, thank you for this honor.