ZLAC Rowing Club

Strong daughter of the golden south!
   With health and beauty for your dower,
Sure pledge of grander womanhood,
   We hail with you this joyous hour.

The infuence of water in San Diego is hard to miss; it is simply all around us. We play near it, glide on top of it, and explore under it. We pay premiums to have a view of it. Water defines our culture almost as clearly as it defines our coastlines.

The earliest ships were used for fishing, exploration, and recreation, and were exclusively crewed by men. As vessels got lighter, faster, sometimes smaller, and sometimes morel luxurious, families started spending more time together on the water. Soon women became the sailors and rowers, not just passengers and crew.

San Diego is home to ZLAC, the country’s oldest women’s rowing club, founded in 1892 by sisters Lena, Agnes, and Caroline Polhamus, and friend Zulette Lamb.

The girls chose ranks—“Captain,” “First Officer,” etc.—and used the first letters of their names to form the acronym ZLAC. In 1894, the San Diego Rowing Club loaned them a six-oared barge that

They got their start rowing barges in San Diego Bay, until increased shipping channels in that area forced a move. Located in Mission Bay since 1929, the ZLAC property is of impressive pedigree as well. Prominent local architect and club member Lillian Rice designed the clubhouse and dock, while renowned horticulturalist Kate Sessions created the landscape.

The San Diego Rowing Club and the ZLAC Rowing Club inspired others to follow their
lead. When San Diego State was still the San Diego Normal School in 1897, rowing became an active part of the collegiate physical education program as well as the school’s social structure.

During the first years, almost all of the social life and physical activity of the school centered around the Rowing Association. Once moved back on campus in 1923 however, rowing became merely one of the sports oered in
the physical education program and many of the old crews were reorganized as sororities through the years 1923, 1924, and 1925. By 1934 rowing was dropped from the curriculum because of the distance from the bay, and gone was the last connection of the women with one of the college’s oldest traditions.

ZLAC rowing programs have produced top college rowers, U.S. National Team members, and three Olympians.

Strong daughter of the golden south!
   With health and beauty for your dower,
Sure pledge of grander womanhood,
   We hail with you this joyous hour.

Manned by a crew as leal and true
   As e’er puller oar or sailed a smack;
So let all other craft beware,
   Not try to sail athwart “The ZLAC.”

Long may she ride our placid bay,
   Though sunny days and moonlight mellow;
Here’s long life to her bonny crew,
   And vict’ry to the black and yellow.-From the launching of the first ZLAC barge, 1895

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