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1981 Joan Brown, Triathlete


Joan Brown was a life-long SF Bay swimmer.  She was the ringleader of a group of women swimmers that sued the all-male Dolphin and Ariel Clubs to admit females in 1974. Four of those 7 women are pictured on the South End Rowing Club dock--Lee Bender, Trudi DiLorenzo, Joan, and Mary Dake.  Joan’s athletic feats included numerous Golden Gate swims (illustrated in the above lithograph done with Magnolia Editions in 1987) and even New Year’s Day Alcatraz swims. She was also somewhat of a triathlete--having competed in the prestigious, exclusive, and dangerous “Run, Jump, Swim” in 1981--a run out to the end of Muni Pier, a treacherous “jump” and a swim back to the beach.  She is pictured here on the far right with fellow bay swimmers, Pat Cuneen, Rich Frenzel, J.J. Healy, Father Charles Dullea, President of USF, Suzanne Heim, Vince Wang, Lee Bender, Dominic Spinetta, Jeff Gunderson (hiding behind Joan), and front and center, George Farnsworth.  After Joan passed away in 1990, her fellow women club members knew that she had gone to SFAI and wanted to make sure there was a proper home for two of her revered swimsuits which had been left in her locker at the South End Club. This gift is a testament to how important a figure Joan Brown is to making sure there was equal access for women in the sport of Open Water Swimming.I would occasionally enter the water with Joan in the late afternoons—the time of day when the sun was perfect, a little windy and choppy.  It was always a pleasure to see the beautiful Joan Brown getting in the water.  She was old school—would wear an old school cap and no goggles.  No paraphernalia.  Just swimming.


--and for a video from SFMOMA  of Joan Brown talking about one of her Alcatraz swims:  https://www.sfmoma.org/watch/joan-brown-escapes-to-alcatraz/

--and for more on the legendary swimer, George Farnsworth please track down Judy Irving's film about George: "19 Arrests, No Convictions."  https://www.pelicanmedia.org/19-arrests-no-convictions


With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.



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