Rose Pitonof

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Rose Pitonof Centennial Swim course
Rose Pitonof Weene (19 April 1895 – 15 June 1984 in Somerville) is marathon swimmer of the early 20th century and the namesake of the 17-mile Rose Pitonof Centennial Swim from Manhattan to Coney Island in New York. 13 August 2011 was the 100th anniversary of her historic swim from East 26th Street, Manhattan to Steeplechase Pier, Coney Island.

Pitonof was known by her title of World’s Champion Long Distance Swimmer and was from Dorchester, Massachusetts. She was honored as a Pioneer Swimmer by the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in the Class of 2013.

In 1910 at the age of 15, she won the 8-mile Boston Light Swim in a record time of 6 hours 50 minutes. Seven men started the competition with her, but did not finish. She was the first woman to ever complete the event. After her Boston Light Swim, Rose became a Vaudeville performer. "My act was part of a larger Vaudeville program, but I was the headliner. They built a tank of water on the stage, and I would exhibit some of my strokes and dives."

On 13 August 1911, she swam from East 26th Street to Steeplechase Pier, earning the woman’s title of Long Distance Swimming Champion of the World. The distance is 17 miles which she swam mostly breaststroke and ate a chicken sandwich and a cup of coffee. An estimated 50,000 people were reported to have cheered her on at Coney Island.

In 1912 she attempted to swim across the English Channel, but she never got her chance and swam the Thames instead. In 1913 she made attempts to swim from the Manhattan Battery to Sandy Hook, New Jersey.

Surname

Pitonof's last name was alternatively spelled Pitinof, Pitonof, Pitinoff, Pittinof and Pitnoff.

According to painstakingly researched information uncovered by Harvard University archivist Marilyn Morgan, Rose's last name was spelled myriad ways during her career by not only the media, but also the Federal Census Bureau (Boston Directories of 1900) and the Library of Congress. Rose was alternatively known as Rose Pitinof, Rose Pitonof, Rose Pitinoff, Rose Pittinof, and Rose Pitnoff as she churned up the waters and demonstrated strength and stamina rarely seen by women in the early 20th century. But the last name of Pitonof was noted in the Federal Census Bureau and the Library of Congress.

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