Continuing the theme of “great discoveries while researching,” started yesterday by Vicki Cobb….
I’m not sure which was the more amazing discovery: finding Relna Brewer’s pictures or meeting her in person. I found her pictures in 1995, when I was doing photo research for my book, Winning Ways: A Photohistory of American Women in Sports. In those days, one could rummage around in the backroom of the Bettmann Archive in
Besides the Bettmann I.D. number, there was only the sketchiest of information on the backs of the photos: “Strongwoman Relna Brewer,
When the book was published in 1996, I still had not found Relna. But then fate intervened. Author and book reviewer Kathleen Krull (now a fellow I.N.K. blogger) received a copy of Winning Ways to review for the Los Angeles Times, and she was surprised to see her husband’s aunt on the cover. Kathleen contacted my publisher, informing them that our cover model, now Relna Brewer McRae, was alive and well and living near
Meeting Relna was such a thrill. I spent so many hours staring at those photos, imagining her story, but her life turned out to be infinitely more interesting than I envisioned. At the time the pictures were taken, she was one of the pioneers at
Today, Relna is still alive and well, just a few months shy of her 90th birthday. She is the mother of three and grandmother of four, and this weekend, she will be the newest inductee in the Muscle Beach Hall of Fame in