1-2 | Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America

Book Review

Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America

Jeff Wiltse
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007. 276 pp. $29.95 cloth. isbn: 9780807831007

by Gary Cross

First Paragraph:

This well-illustrated and highly accessible history takes us from the first municipal swimming pool in Boston in 1868 across a century of change in a largely summer activity that at times surpassed the popularity of most other forms of physical play. The author, a young historian at the University of Montana, focuses on public swimming in the North. In the tradition of American social history, the book focuses on the issues of class, race, gender, and, to a lesser extent, age in the "contested" space of the pool, a site of bared bodies, cooled on hot summer days, in a setting that (compared with sports) was relatively hard to regulate. One of the most imaginative works that I've seen in this genre in years, it compares very favorably to the social histories of leisure that appeared in the late 1970s and the 1980s.