Who Were the Pedestriennes?

Bertha Von Hillern

German teen brought the sport out of beer gardens and bars and into mainstream America. After defeating Marshall in rematch in November 1876, performed only solo. Walked more than 25 times in 15 cities from January 1876 through June 1878, almost always playing to sold-out houses. Retired at age 21 in June 1878 and became a nationally recognized landscape painter.

 


 

May Marshall

Controversial win against Bertha Von Hillern in Chicago in January 1876 started women’s professional walking movement. Just four days after losing to Bertha Von Hillern she defeated male speedwalker Peter Van Ness at New York’s Central Park Garden in November 1876. The era’s most prolific walker, she earned more than $30,000 in five years.

 


 

“Madame” Ada Anderson

British entertainer made international headlines and set a new standard in pedestrianism when she walked 2,700 quarter miles in 2,700 quarter hours in Brooklyn’s Mozart Garden from December 16, 1878 thru January 13, 1879, earning her $8,000. Inspired similar efforts from other pedestriennes, including La Chapelle, Edwards and May Marshall.

 


 

Exilda La Chapelle

Performed the remarkable feat of walking 3,000 quarter-miles in 3,000 quarter hours in Chicago, Jan-Feb 1879. Won three multi-day walks in San Francisco later that year, earning $6,000. Ongoing high-profile battles against rivals Fannie Edwards and Bertha Von Berg kept west coast newspaper writers busy. In November 1878, she walked 100 miles in under 24 hours, still considered the standard of excellence for walkers.

 


 

Fannie Edwards

One of few walkers to successfully complete a 3k/3k “double” in New York early 1879. High profile affair with Frank Leonardson help turned the public against the pedestriennes. Frank left his wife, took Fannie’s last name, and the couple joined Bertha Von Berg and rival Exida La Chapelle in San Francisco. They toured the country billing themselves as America’s most successful brother and sister walking team.

 


 

Bertha Von Berg

Real name Maggie von Gross, this Rochester seamstress won the International Six-Day Tournament at Gilmore’s Garden (soon renamed Madison Square Garden) in April 1879. Moved to San Francisco the following month. Her numerous west coast racing failures and attempted extortion against race promoter/manager EG Cotton contributed to the sport’s decline.

 


 

Amy Howard

The best and most remarkable of all the pedestriennes. In December 1879, the one-time entertainer set a six-day record of 393 miles in Madison Square Garden. Won several multi-day races in San Francisco, including a six-day total of 409 miles, which stood as the American record for more than 100 years. Returned to the stage with her husband in 1882. Died during childbirth October 4, 1885. She was 23 years old.