This section is from "Every Woman's Encyclopaedia". Also available from Amazon: Every Woman's Encyclopaedia.
Why All Should Learn to Swim - Easier for Women to Learn Swimming than for Men - A Suitable Swimming Costume - Useful Advice for Novices - How to Act in Cases of Cramp or Drowning The First Lesson - The Arm Strokes
It is not, perhaps, too much to say that every woman and girl should learn to swim, for three reasons. Firstly, because it is a health-giving and delightful pastime; secondly, because it is one peculiarly fitted to develop all muscles and portions of the body uniformly; and thirdly, because a knowledge of swimming may not only be the means of saving their own lives, but enable them to save those of other people.
To learn to swim is quite easy, if one gives one's mind to it. The degree of proficiency to which one attains is, of course, largely dependent upon the amount of natural aptitude, perseverance, and pluck which the would-be swimmer possesses, the time which can be devoted to practice, and the opportunities which offer themselves.
Although it is not, perhaps, generally known, women and girls, as a matter of fact, should be able to learn to swim with greater' ease than men and boys. The chief reasons are that their bones are lighter and their bodies, as a general rule, more buoyant. In fact, they start with natural advantages over men which should cause most of those not incapacitated by weak heart or other disease to become swimmers as a matter of course.
The elements of swimming should be learned with care and method, and not hurried over. When this is once done, there are few who may not soon hope to attain a sufficient amount of proficiency to enable them to enjoy the pastime. The best place in which to learn is a question of more importance in the case of women and girls than may at once appear. For normally constituted men and boys there can be only-one answer if the sea is available, and that is-in the sea. But the swimming-bath presents several distinct advantages for women and girls, more especially if they happen to be of a nervous temperament.
A bathing costume that is too elaborate for swimming. The most suitable dress for swimming is made in one piece, fits closely, and offers no resistance to the water In the next article an illustration of a suitable swimming costume will be given To learn in the comfort and comparative privacy of a bath is in itself a decided boon, but to learn to swim in water that is smooth is an additional advantage. It is true that one misses the buoyancy of salt water when learning in a fresh-water bath, and also the exhilarating effects which an open-air bath ensures. But the lack of these advantages by most people will be considered compensated for by the quietude and absence of discomfort which is often caused by rough water and wind.
The matter of costume is an important one. Nowadays it is, of course, no longer considered an impropriety to wear a smart swimming-suit, or a skirt-less costume, when one intends to swim and dive and not merely paddle in water knee-deep. A skirted type of costume is often seen in illustrations, of ladies' papers, and is frequently worn, but by an ardent swimmer the skirt is deemed an encumbrance and an unnecessary addition. The ideal material has yet possibly to be discovered, but many of the most experienced swimmers adopt a stockinette costume, fitting closely and o ff e r i n g comparatively little resistance to the passage of the wearer through the water. Such materials as serge, galatea and silk, all have their advocates, the first-named being the most popular, though, possibly, taking it all round, alpaca is still better, as it holds the water less, and its appearance when wet is certainly more becoming.
Before anyone decides to learn to swim, it cannot be too clearly insisted upon that she should first obtain medical advice. Bathing, especially in the sea, does not suit every constitution, and is positively dangerous for people whose hearts or circulations are not normally strong. Heart weakness may exist quite unsuspected, and then sea-bathing may be a dangerous pastime in which to indulge.