40 Years of Women in SLSA – Enid Taylor

Enid Taylor  (nee Rennie)

Anyone who has taken a stroll through Manly Lifesaving Club will be familiar with the black-and-white image of the club’s first women’s march past team which sits proudly in its downstairs hallway.

Enid Taylor was one of that team’s many members from its origin in the early 1950s. As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of women’s official involvement in surf lifesaving, it is well worth considering how females participated in an unofficial capacity for many decades prior.

Back in the 50s, the surf club was a microcosm of broader society– Enid recalls how women were largely limited to the club’s canteen as they were strictly forbidden from entering anywhere else in the clubhouse.

Either way, Manly Lifesaving Club became a community hub for young locals and was where Enid met her husband Barry at the age of 13.

“It’s a bit hard to explain now because you spent all of your weekends at the beach,” she reflects. “We used to go there because that was our social life.

“A lot of the surf clubs had dances with great jazz bands that we would enjoy every weekend. That was our entertainment in those days – the surf club, dancing and movies – that was it.”

Barry would go on to be Manly’s club captain and a well-renowned rugby player and coach.

Enid recalls how the majority of her involvement in the lifesaving club was in a supportive
role for his endeavours.

But at the age of 15, an opportunity arose for Enid, her sister and some of their friends to form the club’s first ever march past squad.

For five years they competed in ‘unofficial’ women’s carnivals – although Enid recalls with a chuckle how they often drew greater crowds than their male counterparts.

The events only ever included competitions on the sand, including march past, beach sprints and even pillow fights which Taylor jokes “used to be quite the novelty.”

From a 21st century perspective so many of the early surf club traditions seem inconceivable – however for those during that era, they were never questioned.

Enid recalls the strange feelings she endured as women were eventually allowed into the confines of Manly LSC for the first time.

“It was a bit like the walls were perhaps going to fall in because wow, women are allowed to go in!”, she says.

“And then when we did go in it was like – is that it? Why weren’t we allowed here before? But as I said, we accepted things because we didn’t know any different.”

Taylor admires the feats achieved by all the female members who play an integral role in the lifesaving movement to this day – both in club administration positions and surf sports.

“The women are doing amazing things now, so many of them are athletes,” she comments.

“Look at what the Ironwomen are doing – they’re achieving so many great things and I can only just admire what they’re doing.

“I’m not envious because it’s a different time. Perhaps if I was around that time, I might have competed, I don’t know.”

Enid is the first of several remarkable women that the club will profile this season to commemorate the 40th anniversary of official female involvement in surf lifesaving. If you or someone you know has a story you’d like us to tell, feel free to get in touch by emailing chriscurulli@gmail.com.

-Written by Chris Curulli


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