Pedestriennes

The Pedestriennes, Americas’ Forgotten Superstars

Based on the nationally-acclaimed book of the same name, Harry lays out the fascinating story of the 1870s female endurance walkers who dazzled America with their on and off track exploits. The pedestriennes made more money in a few days than the average American made in years. But their success meant walking for days with little rest. They would battle hunger, cold, loneliness, and their constant companion, fatigue. While initially popular, the sport quickly collapsed due to a series of scandals and overreaching rivalries. This entertaining talk includes who the women were, what they accomplished, what motivated them, and why they matter today.

Uncovering the Pedestriennes

This inspirational session includes how author Harry Hall uncovered this virtually buried story, from stumbling on it while working on another project, to traveling the country researching it, to the critical moment when finding a pedesgtrienne’s great-granddaughters who gave him an invaluable scrapbook that gave the project life. It also covers Harry’s mid-life decision to enroll in journalism school so he could match his writing skills with the incredible pedestrienne story. The lessons Harry learned during his 12 year journey researching and rewriting will inspire you.

Who Were the Pedestriennes?

The pedestriennes set records that seem impossible even by today’s standards. They defied traditional thought on women’s roles in society and what was thought they could accomplish. Who were the pedestriennes? How did they get started? How did they become so successful? What elements in society contributed to their success? This presentation gives attendees insight as to the pedestriennes’ personalities, their strengths as women and athletes, and how their relationships built, then destroyed the sport.

A Century Before Title IX

Most people think that before President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law in 1972, American women only made rare appearances on the athletic landscape. Not so. Years before Althea Gibson and Babe Didrikson Zaharias set the stage for today’s women athletes, the professional women endurance walkers performed throughout America, generating controversy, headlines, and earning small fortunes.

From 1876-1881, a small group of groundbreaking women endurance walkers called pedestriennes, exploded into the burgeoning landscape of organized sports. While nascent games football and baseball struggled to find a place in the new world, women were stars in the nation’s number one sport, endurance walking. Their competitions could last for several weeks, and top pedestriennes even defeated men.

In this session, attendees will discover the fascinating and virtually unknown story of the pedestriennes; obstacles they overcame, the frenzy they created, why their popularity rose and collapsed so quickly, and why they matter today. This program is based on Harry’s nationally-acclaimed book, The Pedestriennes, America’s Forgotten Superstars.

"Madame" Ada Anderson in a late 1870s Pedestrienne outfit