N4L 126: "The Red Rose Crew" by Daniel J. Boyne


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In The Red Rose Crew, former crew team member and rowing coach, Daniel Boyne, tackles the compelling true story of the female athletes who came together to form the first U.S. Women’s National Crew Team. It was 1975, just when Title IX began to crack open doors to American women in sports and at universities across the nations. This formidable group of tough women battled for international success at the World Championships while also battling for equality at home where sexual prejudice, bureaucracy, and male domination also stood firmly in their path to victory.

Fiercely determined to participate in one of the most grueling and competitive sports, this brave crew not only withstood all the rigors of hard training but also fought the uphill battle to take their rightful place as premier athletes. Tapping into each individual’s inner strength, the ingenuous coach Harry Parker (from Harvard’s men crew) also ignited an unlikely but powerful sense of team unity among the women, propelling them to participate in their first Olympic Games in 1976. With raw honesty combined with authentic dramatic tension, Boyne tells "A True Story of Women, Winning, and the Water.”


  • Unbeknownst to many, American rowing has its original roots among the working class.
  • When crews row well, it’s difficult for onlookers to tell just how hard the oarsmen are rowing.
  • The Head of the Charles Regatta – happens every October and the largest race in the world
  • Gail Pierson – brilliant MIT professor and champion sharpshooter; assumes the role of elder statesman and organizer for the women’s team; a pioneer for rowing who suffers the slings and arrows of criticism
  • Carie Graves – stands 6’1” by her sophomore year in high school; the team’s Amazon bohemian; channels her darkest places to compete at her top level, becoming the strong powerhouse of the team
  • Anne Warner – Yale student stronger than most male rowers at Harvard; fierce feminist who takes dramatic measures to get equal amenities and recognition for the team
  • Lynn Sillman – 16-year-old coxswain whose quiet but strong leadership skills steer the team literally and figuratively
  • CLAC – women’s row club began in late 1800s that trained at Mission Bay in San Diego
  • Harry Parker – without aspiring to the role, takes coach position of the first women’s truly competitive crew


  • “In order to understand competitive rowing, you first had to understand pain. Not the common ordinary sort that visits most people on an occasional basis…the real pain of rowing, the one required for a racing effort, was far more internal and intense.”
  • “A crew coach is utterly useless during a crew race, unable to communicate with his crew. Even if it were possible to talk to them as they raced, it was not permitted.”
  • “Harvard University…had one of the finest facilities in the entire United States, if not the world.
  • “Most of these women had already paid their dues. Most had not only experienced the normal rigors of rowing but had also borne the additional hardships of being denied the basic privileges that came with it. They hadn’t needed to walk into boathouses and prove themselves. They’d had to bang on the doors just to be let in.”
  • “In rowing, explaining the success of an underrated crew is almost as difficult as accounting for the poor performance of a highly rated one.”

BUY Red Rose Crew: A True Story Of Women, Winning, And The Water


BUY the DVD "Miracle" (2004)


Check our podcast interview with Keith O'Brien about his book Fly Girls -- another nonfiction book heralding the accomplishments of strong women.

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