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Mina Wylie: The story behind the bronze statue at Wylie's Baths

Author, Grace Barnes attempts to restore Mina Wylie, arguably one of the greatest swimmers Australia ever produced to her rightful place within Australian sporting history.

Author, Grace Barnes, introduces her new book In Search of Mina Wylie.

In 1912, against a backdrop of growing feminist and nationalist movements, the Australian public united behind a fundraising drive to send Sydney swimmers Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie to compete at the Olympic Games in Stockholm.

This was the first time the swimming competition had been open to female competitors and Durack and Wylie repaid the faith the Australian public had shown in them by bringing home the gold and silver medals respectively.

Today, the name of Fanny Durack is more widely recognised than that of her teammate, and yet Mina Wylie sustained a longer and more successful career. When she retired from competition after a career spanning two decades, Mina had won more state and national titles than any other Australian swimmer and had held more world records in more strokes than any other female swimmer worldwide.

Contemporary Australians, however, are unlikely to have heard of her unless they swim at Wylie’s Baths in Coogee – built by Mina’s father, Henry, in 1907 – where her bronze statue greets visitors at the entrance.

In Search of Mina Wylie is my attempt to restore a woman who is arguably one of the greatest swimmers Australia ever produced to her rightful place within Australian sporting history. 

In 1975, Mina was selected as an Honoree to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in Florida, and when her request to the Federal Government for expenses to attend her induction ceremony was denied, the Australian public again united behind a nationwide campaign to enable Mina to take her place amongst the worldwide Greats.

This book introduces Mina Wylie the swimmer, the independent New Woman, the original ‘Australian Girl’ … and investigates what it was about this young woman from Coogee that inspired a nation twice, sixty years apart. A woman who was determined to ensure she would not be forgotten.

In Search of Mina Wylie is available for purchase online.

The official book launch will be at Wylie’s Baths on the 8th of March, you can purchase tickets here.

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 20 February 2023
  • (Updated on 3 August 2023)
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