Great achievements are often the product of a handful of pioneers who refuse to give up their beliefs and values. These people are often called trendsetters or innovators. Oftentimes, these leaders pave the way for many to benefit in the years to come. This was the case in regards to women and exercise in the beginning of the 20th century, and this is currently the case with pregnant women and exercise.
The Second Industrial Revolution, also known as the Technological Revolution, occurred in the latter half the 19th century. Even though there were significant achievements in production and transportation and the standard of living improved, a depression immediately followed. Many businesses failed because of an increase in accessibility of products and drastically lowered prices.
Blues and jazz music started the 20th century. There were two world wars, a civil rights movement and significant technological advances. This was the age of medicine. Antibiotics and vaccines were being administered like hot cakes. Antidepressants, contraceptives and chemotherapy were all introduced. The Internet was invented in the 1960s and popularized in the 1980s and 1990s, along with rap, reggae and house music.
A lot has changed socially, economically and scientifically in the past two centuries. Ideologies have shifted and cultures have transformed. To stand your ground during times when women could not even vote required an enormous amount of courage and faith.
Throughout the ups and the downs there were definitely some standout women. At the turn of the 19th century, Katie Sandwina was a star of the Barnum and Bailey circus. Her dad started her in gymnastics and weightlifting at a very young age. During the show, Katie would lift her 165-pound husband over her head. She never missed a performance, even when she was pregnant. She was known in Europe as the Queen of Strength and Beauty.
Australian Annette Kellerman’s parents used swimming and strength training to treat a disability in her legs at a young age. She became a professional swimmer and was credited with inventing the sport of synchronized swimming. She was also the first woman to wear a one-piece bathing suit. Nowadays there is very little left when it comes to swimsuits. Helen Wills was the first American-born athlete to reach international status as a tennis player. She was a celebrity before the Internet and all the gossip magazines. Helen won eight Wimbledons and seven U.S. Championships. By the mid 1920s, in a few big cities there were women’s athletic clubs. Men and women had become intrigued about women weight training, especially if it made them better athletes and allowed them to participate in the Olympic games.
Ivy Russell of Great Britain basically set the stage for women in weightlifting. She found weightlifting at the age of 14, because it was the only thing that seemed to help with her tuberculosis. That’s weird, right? Exercise enhances your health. In the 1930s, Ivy succeeded in establishing a female division in the British Amateur Weight Lifting Association.
You see, prior to the Industrial Revolution, pregnant women went about their normal duties in life until they had the baby. Once they gave birth, they returned to their duties as soon as they had recovered. They were functioning in life just as any other person. When the person’s daily life was made less laborious with the help of machines, women didn’t have to do as much physical work. They stepped in here and there during wars, but for the most part, they were expected to act like ladies.
However, by the end of the 19th century, women were finally being respected for their abilities in weight training and interval training. Thanks to the brilliant effort of a handful of women and men, strides were being made in regards to women and fitness.
As we enter the 21st century, I feel that we are at a similar tipping point in specific regards to pregnant women and fitness. I feel a lot of rules and recommendations were made in history based on a few people’s assumptions and lack of experience with the subject matter. I feel that as women become empowered and trust in their bodies more, that we will see a lot more bellies running, lifting, swimming and just plain moving.
Research on exercise and pregnancy is starting to surface. It is now known that exercising while pregnant can decrease the length of labor and reduce the need for medical interventions. Paying attention to nutrition and exercising while pregnant can also have significant benefits for your baby.
As the founder of BirthFIT, I dream of empowering and educating women daily so that they may have an organic, functional pregnancy. I’m grateful for the female innovators who have come before my peers and me. BirthFIT, along with a few other rock stars, will lead the movement in the 21st century.