Museum Week – Meet Sarah Durack, Australia’s swimming champion

It’s the second day of Museum Week, a 7 day online celebration of museums, galleries and cultural institutions around the globe. This year’s theme is ‘Women in Culture’, and over the next 7 days a different lifestyle topic will be used to explore and expand upon this year’s theme. Today the focus is on sport. Follow the discussions as part of Museum Week online and on social media with the hashtags #WomenMW and #SportMW.

If you have a chance to visit EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, make sure to take a look inside ‘Changing the Game’ – our highly-interactive gallery exploring the Irish contribution to global sport. Irish athletes and those of Irish heritage have influenced sport around the world – from baseball, to rugby, to boxing, and more.

However, women have not always had an easy time when it comes to forging a path for themselves in the sporting world. Sarah Durack is just one of many women throughout history who helped to change the attitude towards women in sport, and we’re proud to feature her at EPIC.

Durack was born to Irish parents in Sydney, Australia, and her family originates from County Clare. She went on to become Australia’s first female Olympic gold medallist – but it was not an easy journey. She trained as a swimmer in breast-stroke which, at the time, was the only style in which women were allowed to compete. She came to prominence due to the fact that swimming as a sport was segregated by gender in Australia. Women were forbidden from competing in competitions where men were also present, but due to her success and the massive public support behind her, the rule was changed.

The new rules meant that she could compete, and went on to compete in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm. When she won, she became Australia’s first female Olympic gold medallist. Her Olympic gold medal was presented to the Commonwealth government by her brother after her death in 1956, and is now housed at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.

Missed the first part of our special blog series for Museum Week? Read our first article on Isabella McDougall here.