Dateline, Venice.In his travel book Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
dedicates his entire twenty-third chapter to a single subject --- the
gondolas of Venice, and the men who steer those boats --- the
gondoliers. Here is some of what Twain wrote:
gondolier is a picturesque rascal for all he wears no satin harness, no
plumed bonnet, no silken tights. His attitude is stately; he is lithe
and supple; all his movements are full of grace."
you may be focusing on the part that says that the gondolier isn't
wearing silk tights. Or a feathered hat. And for heaven's sake, man, no
silken harness? What should strike you, though, is that the picturesque
rascal in question is, well, a he.
turns out he's always been a he as long as we can remember. Even today,
one-hundred and forty years after Innocents Abroad was published, he's
still a he. In Venice, all four hundred and twenty five registered
gondoliers are men.
That is, they were, until Giorgina Boscola came along.
Boscola is the city's first female gondolier. And she became so after
an entire year of rigorous testing, both practical and written. The
twenty-four-year-old mother of two proved that it certainly doesn't take
a man to steer a gondola.
not so fast, lady gondolier. This also happens to be a case of "one
stroke forward, two strokes back" for the women of Venice.
hiccup for Ms Boscola is that she still won't really be allowed to row.
That is, unless one of her male colleagues wants to take the day off.
So, on the canals of Venice, for women to truly be equals at the oar, it
seems they'll have to rock the boat even harder.