January 13, 1879
Ada Anderson – a 35-year-old Englishwoman widely known as “Madame Anderson” – finished a 28-day-long pedestrian endurance event at Mozart Garden in Brooklyn, New York, that earned her international headlines. The next day’s edition of the Cincinnati Daily Star reported, “Madame Anderson has completed one of the most difficult tasks ever attempted by any pedestrian, male or female, namely, walking 2,700 quarter miles in 2,700 successive quarter hours –one quarter of a mile at the beginning of each quarter of an hour.” (A quarter-mile is equivalent to four-tenths of a kilometer.)
The Cincinnati Daily Star also noted, “At 10:45 last evening the bell rang, and Madame Anderson responded promptly to walk her last quarter, which she did in a trifle over two minutes, amidst the wildest excitement and enthusiasm, the entire audience rising and cheering her loudly while the ladies could scarcely restrain themselves.”
Anderson had begun her walk for the event at 8:00 p.m. on December 16, and her overall performance further established her as both a formidable walking champion and an inspirational role model for women when it came to that sport. The above image from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper depicts Anderson being cheered on by spectators during that competition at Mozart Garden.
“The Plucky Pedestrienne” was how several newspapers nationwide described Anderson in recounting her triumph at Mozart Garden. She led an unconventional life, especially by Victorian Era standards. Prior to becoming a professional walker in 1877, Anderson worked as an actress, singer, theater proprietress, and circus clown. She quickly made a name for herself as a tough competitor in various pedestrian venues, matching or nearly matching the all-time endurance records set by seasoned male walkers.
Anderson also kept spectators entertained with her songs and jokes. In addition, her example and exhortations in Brooklyn and elsewhere motivated many women to likewise take up walking for both fitness and profit.
For more information on Ada Anderson and her achievement at the 1878-79 pedestrian endurance event in Brooklyn, please check out https://www.bklynlibrary.org/blog/2011/12/07/walk-walk