Authors Showcase: The Pedestriennes by Harry Hall
July 10, 2015
The Book: The Pedestriennes
The Author: Harry Hall
The Story: The Pedestriennes: America’s Forgotten Superstars tells the little-known story of a handful of late 19th century female athletes who dazzled America with their remarkable performances in endurance walking.
Frequently performing in front of large raucous crowds, pedestriennes walked on makeshift tracks setup in reconfigured theatres and opera houses. Top pedestriennes often earned more money in one week than the average American took home in a year. Newspapers reported on their achievements and interviewed the champions.
Their walking outfits became fashion plates, their pictures were sold in stores and they made personal appearances as national celebrities.
The pedestriennes’ exploits reshaped the country’s attitudes about what women could accomplish and established the foundation for modern sports, the revival of the Olympic Games and the suffragist movement.
About Harry Hall:
Harry Hall’s background as a track coach and distance-runner (he’s completed two Boston Marathons) led him to write, The Pedestriennes, America’s Forgotten Superstars.
It’s the untold story of the women endurance walkers who, in the late 1800’s captivated America and became national heroes.
They set the foundation for modern sports, the revival of the Olympic Games, and the suffragist movement. The book has won a Mayborn Prize and an Independent Publisher’s (IPPY) Award.
Harry, who is also an award-winning speaker and radio talk show host, is a charter inductee into the Mayborn Author’s Guild.
Review by Darlyle Mcginnis:
The Pedestriennes has been begging to be written for well over a century. Too bad for the people before us, good for us, because Harry Hall of our time gives a splendid account of the phenomenon which swept England and America in the 1880s.
Hall’s painstaking research reveals, actually recreates, the reign of women’s endurance walking in a way as fascinating today as the grueling contests were in the Victorian Age. He brings to vivid life the personalities, times, and national moods which engendered a mad if short-lived huge following.
How these women performed the seemingly impossible feats of perseverance, stamina and will, why they did, and how it ended makes for a smoothly written work hard to put down. With the author’s dedication to his subject coming through page by page, he gives us every piece of the story from both sides of the Atlantic, unfolding at just the right pace.
If you want to understand and shake your head at the obsessive diversions mankind can come up with, read this book.
Review by Eric:
American history is filled with fads and fascinations. But I never knew that in the late 1800s professional speed walking became one of America’s leading spectator sports, a sport in which both men and women circled fields and tracks in a fast heel-toe walk, cheered on by thousands of fans.
The sheer stamina of these athletes is amazing–oftentimes they would walk around a quarter-mile track for weeks, with only a few breaks to eat and sleep. The author nicely brings this amazing craze (which existed in both Britain and the US) to life.
Review by F. Campos:
At an age where we think every story has been written or told, comes a great story about “Americans Forgotten Superstars.” While I am not a super sports fan, I found this untold story captivating and extremely interesting.
Harry’s research on incredible feats done by women in the 1800s is spellbinding. I cannot believe these athletes would walk for days without sleep.
These stories are the modern day reality shows without the TV cameras, but still all the drama and scandals.