This photo originates from Library and Archives Canada. The description is “Women Canadian Olympic Team” in Toronto, Ontario on January 21, 1930. Anyone seeing this would realize that the Summer Olympics were not held in 1930, and they have never taken place in Toronto.
Who are these women and at what event did they represent Canada? By simply checking online historical newspapers, it was quite easy to find the answers. First, the women are (from left to right): Peggy Matheson, Florence (Jane) Bell, Constance Colston, Eva Dawes, and Kay Griffiths.
These athletes were among those selected to represent Canada at the Millrose Games, held in New York on February 8, 1930, and also at similar games in Philadelphia on February 12. The Millrose Athletic Association, formed as a recreational club by employees of the John Wanamaker department store, organized the Millrose Games for the first time in 1908. Between 1914 and 2011, they were the oldest continuous sporting event held in Madison Square Garden.
The Canadian athletes chosen to “represent” Canada were from Toronto and Montreal. Not shown in the photo is Myrtle Cook McGowan, the Canadian sprint champion from Montreal. Sprinters Peggy Mathieson and Kay Griffiths as well as high jumper Constance Colston were members of the Canadian Ladies Athletic Club in Toronto. Florence (Jane) Bell ran for Parkdale Ladies Athletic Club, and high jumper Eva Dawes belonged to the Toronto Ladies Athletic Club. A fifth sprinter, Dallas Creamer from Parkdale, was added later. Both Myrtle Cook and Jane Bell were members of the Olympic gold-medal winning relay team in Amsterdam in 1928. The team was managed by well-known athlete Bobbie Rosenfeld with Alexandrine Gibb along as chaperone and reporter.
The women’s 50-yard sprint had been won the previous five years by a Canadian entry so that victory seemed a certainty. Imagine everyone’s surprise when 17-year-old Polish-American Stella Walsh (Stanisława Walasiewicz) of Cleveland won the race by an unbelievable four-yard margin in world record time of 6 1-10 seconds. Kay Griffiths, Jane Bell, and Myrtle Cook finished behind Walsh in that order. The Canadian 440-yard relay team was also beaten by the Americans. In the women’s high jump, the American jumper Jean Shiley took first with Eva Dawes and Constance Colston coming second and third.
A few days later in Philadelphia at the Meadowbrook Club’s annual games, the Canadians fared much the same although they beat the Americans in the 440-yard relay.
What’s also interesting about this photo is that it has been used (with no credit to a source) by businesses on the Internet. For example, New York based Vibrant Media uses it on a page announcing the opening of their Canadian Office in April, 2015. The photo below appears on the homepage of Kulturika, a cultural dance event planner in Cologne, Germany. Note how “Canada” has been changed to “Kulturika” on the women’s shirts.
Photos are fascinating cultural artifacts especially when it comes to sport, but a conscientious sport historian must always check the origin and source of the photograph.