Water Ladies

Many of the beaches in Sydney have swimming pools cut into the coastal rocks. They are called ocean baths. The McIver Ladies Baths at the southern end of Coogee beach is a little different. It is the last remaining ocean bath for women only.

A clubhouse is a place where a club meets. The size and design of a clubhouse will depend on the club.

The pool was built in 1886. Mixed bathing was not allowed then, so men and women had their own pools. The laws changed and almost all pools, except the McIver Ladies Baths, also known as the Coogee Women’s Pool, were opened to both men and women.

When you enter, there is the clubhouse of the Randwick and Coogee Ladies Swimming Club. The club have operated the pool since 1922. The entry fee is only 20 cents and has been the same for decades.

Waves crash: When waves hit something with a lot of force we say that they crash. If they hit something gently we say that they lap.

From the baths you can see the ocean, coastal cliffs and the rocks known as Wedding Cake Island. No one is sure how this group of rocks got its name. One idea is that when the waves crash over the rocks they look like icing on a cake.

The pool is 20 metres long, and cut into the cliffs around Coogee Beach. Women swim here all year round, although the pool is most popular in summer. Some women swim laps, others just float and look up at the sky. The rocks surrounding the pool are home to crabs and molluscs, and first time visitors to the pool are often surprised by the crabs crawling over the rocks. From May to October swimmers might see whales and dolphins further out in the ocean.

The pool is a well known Sydney location, but it does have an atmosphere of secrecy about it. The rocks and cliffs shelter the pool from view, so it is very private. Nuns from the local convent have been swimming here for a long time. Today the pool is popular with young Muslim women who, for religious reasons, want a women’s only bath.

The pool is also a favourite place for Sydney’s lesbian community, as well as women who, for reasons of age or appearance, prefer the safety of a female only space. Others simply enjoy the pool’s beautiful natural location.

The pool is also a popular place for women to read and have picnics on the lawn behind the clubhouse. The pool has its own book swapping system. Women leave unwanted books on a shelf in the changing room for others to read.

This year the Randwick and Coogee Ladies Swimming Club celebrated their 90 years of operating the McIver Ladies Baths. Despite the occasional protest about the women’s only policy, the baths are regarded by most as an important part of Sydney’s history. Popular with women of all ages and backgrounds, it is one of the city’s most lovely secret places.

Original article by Vanessa Berry – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Many beaches in Sydney have ocean baths – swimming pools cut into the coastal rocks. The McIver Ladies Baths, which is also called Coogee Women’s Pool, at the southern end of Coogee beach is one of them, but with one difference. This pool is the last remaining coastal bath for the use of women and children only.

A policy is the official opinion or a regulation.

The bath was built in 1886 when mixed bathing was not allowed so separate men’s and women’s pools were built in Sydney. Nowadays there are occasional protests against the women’s only policy but for many people in Sydney it is an important part of the city’s heritage.

When you enter the bath, there is a small building on the right side. It is the clubhouse of the Randwick and Coogee Ladies Swimming Club who have operated the pool since 1922. The entry fee is 20 cents, an amount which hasn’t changed for decades.

‘Behind the clubhouse, there are a few small areas of lawn’ – the author wants to say that there aren’t many of these places but there are enough of them. If you say that ‘there are few areas’ you want to say that there aren’t enough of them. What is enough and what is not enough depends on the situation.

Behind the club house, there are a few small areas of lawn where women sit reading, sunbathing or looking out toward the ocean. You can see the cliffs and a rock formation known as Wedding Cake
Island. From May to October there is a chance to see whales and dolphins further out in the ocean.

The pool is 20 meters in length. Steep steps will take you there from the grassy areas above. Women swim here all year round, although the pool is naturally most popular in the summer months. On the rocks around the pool you can see crabs and mollusks. At high tide, waves wash over the sides of the pool. Sometimes you can find some fish swimming in the pool.

The pool is a well known place but it still has an atmosphere of secrecy. There are rocks and cliffs on either side so people can’t see into the pool. Many generations of women from different backgrounds have enjoyed this feeling of privacy. Nuns from the local convent have a history of swimming here. Recently, the pool has been popular with young Muslim women. The pool is also a favorite place of Sydney’s lesbian community, as well as women who, because of their age or appearance, prefer the female only space. Others simply enjoy the pool’s beautiful setting.

This year the Randwick and Coogee Ladies Swimming Club celebrated their 90th anniversary operating the McIver Ladies Baths. Since its opening it has been popular with women of all ages and backgrounds. It is also one of the city’s most lovely places.

Original article by Vanessa Berry – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Many of the beaches in Sydney have ocean baths – swimming pools cut into the coastal rocks. The McIver Ladies Baths at the southern end of Coogee beach is one such ocean pool, but one with a difference. The pool is the last remaining coastal bath for the use of women only.

At the time of the pool’s construction in 1886 mixed bathing was not permitted, and so separate men’s and women’s pools were built in Sydney’s coastal and harbour waters. As the laws changed these pools became open to both men and women. The McIver Ladies Baths, which is also known as the Coogee Women’s Pool, remained for use by women and children only, and continues so to this day.

If something is negligible it means it is so small it is considered to be worth nothing.

Upon entering the baths, there is a small building on the right, the clubhouse of the Randwick and Coogee Ladies Swimming Club who have operated the pool since 1922. A sign requests payment of the 20 cents entry fee, an almost negligible amount which has remained unchanged for decades. Beyond the clubhouse are a few small areas of lawn, where women sit reading or sunbathing, looking out towards the ocean. The view takes in the ocean and coastal cliffs and the rock formation known as Wedding Cake Island. The exact origins of the name for this small, rocky island are unknown; however one story goes that the white water of the waves crashing over the rocks resembles icing on a cake.

The pool is 20 metres in length, and cut into the cliffs that surround Coogee Beach. Steep steps lead down to it from the grassy areas above. Women swim here all year round, although the pool is naturally most popular in the summer months. Some women swim laps, others just float and look up at the sky. The rocks surrounding the pool are alive with crabs and molluscs, and first time visitors to the pool can often be heard to exclaim in surprise when they first notice the crabs scuttling over the rocks.

While the pool is a well known Sydney location, it does have an atmosphere of secrecy surrounding it. The rocks and cliffs to either side of it shelter it from view, which has given privacy to many generations of women from different backgrounds. Nuns from the local convent have a history of swimming here; indeed in the 40s it was the Mother Superior of Coogee’s Brigidine Convent who resisted the move to open the pool to mixed bathing. The baths are a sanctuary for those who, for religious reasons, require a women-only pool. In recent years the pool has been popular with young Muslim women.

The pool is also a favourite place for Sydney’s lesbian community, as well as women who, for reasons of age or appearance, prefer the safety of a female only space. Others simply enjoy the pool’s beautiful natural setting. The senior members of the Randwick and Coogee Ladies Swimming Club, now aged in their 70s and 80s, still swim there daily.

At high tide, waves wash over the sides of the pool and ripple the otherwise peaceful surface. From May to October there is a chance of glimpsing whales and dolphins further out in the ocean, and women often compare their sightings – whether they be of dolphins or the schools of fish that sometimes inhabit the waters of the pool.

Policy vs politics: A policy is the official opinion, attitude or way of an organization from a company to a government. It can have a meaning close to regulations. Politics on the other hand is the process of governing and includes everything from official laws, procedures and institutions to the deals made.

As well as being used for swimming, areas such as the rocks south of the pool are a popular place for women to sunbathe, read and have picnics. A book swapping system has operated informally at the pool for many years, women leaving unwanted books on a shelf in the changing room for others to read. Beyond the rocks and further to the south is another pool, Wylie’s Baths, an early 20th century structure with a distinctive raised boardwalk lined with yellow and blue panels. Wylie’s Baths is open to both men and women and, while much larger, has the same ocean outlook as the women’s pool and is just as popular with swimmers.

This year the Randwick and Coogee Ladies Swimming Club celebrated their 90th anniversary operating the McIver Ladies Baths. Although the club has been challenged by the occasional protest against the pool’s women’s only policy, the baths are regarded by most as an important part of Sydney’s heritage. Popular with women of all ages and backgrounds, it is one of the city’s most lovely secret places.

Vanessa Berry – Sydney, Australia

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