WOMEN ROWING competitively? Forget it.
Back in the late '30s, you didn't see women competing on the Schuylkill in racing sculls. It was a male preserve, like so much in American society in those years.
But Ruth Adams wouldn't hear of it. She bucked tradition by advertising in a local newspaper for women who would be interested in forming a rowing club to compete in races.
Nearly 100 women responded, and the Philadelphia Girls' Rowing Club was formed. Headquartered on Boathouse Row, it is one of the nation's oldest women's competitive rowing clubs.
And Ruth continued to row well into her 80s.
Ruth Robinhold - as she became after marrying fellow rowing enthusiast William Henry Robinhold in 1940 - a retired cost accountant for the John B. Stetson Hat Co., a mortgage-insurance manager for First Pennsylvania Bank, and a prizewinning gardener, died Dec. 13. She was 99. She was living in Masonic Village in Lafayette Hill.
Her family said Ruth's "lifelong philosophy was to laugh, work, eat moderately, enjoy the outdoors and keep a happy demeanor."
She also gave credit for her long life to her fondness for regular ingestions of her own martini (shaken, not stirred).
Ruth proved that women could row successfully in competitions. In addition to winning local races, her girls' rowing club was the first to win the U.S. National Women's Championships in the 1960s, then represented the U.S. at the European Championships in Vichy, France, in 1967.
A quad was named after her at her club's house on Boathouse Row, and the Ruth Robinhold Trophy is awarded to the winning boat in girls' quad races at the annual Stotesbury Cup Regatta in May.
Ruth was born in Germantown and graduated from Germantown High School in 1930. She was employed by the Stetson company for 24 years, rising to cost accountant. She was employed by First Pennsylvania Bank for 20 years, retiring in 1969.
She was a member of the Mortgage Bankers Association and completed the required seminars. She also completed a management course for continuing education while at First Pennsylvania.
During World War II, she was honored for her work tracking aircraft. She also volunteered as a nurse's aide at Hahnemann University Hospital during the war.
Ruth was a champion gardener, famous for her rhododendrons, which lined her one-acre property in Lafayette Hill. She was a member of the American Rhododendron Society and Outdoor Gardeners of Montgomery County.
She was a graduate of the Barnes Foundation, where she completed a three-year course in horticulture.
Ruth formerly worked as a volunteer for the Shade Tree Commission in Whitemarsh Township, inspecting and taking inventory of the township's trees.
In 1940, she met Robinhold, a member and one-time president of the Undine Barge Club, when he helped her carry her boat down to the dock. They were married until his death in 2003.
"Ruth had a marvelous life, active and vibrant. She lived life to the fullest," said Ernie "Tina" Bayer, daughter of the late Ernestine Bayer, a champion rower and co-founder of the Girls' Rowing Club. "Her involvement with the girls' club and her friendships with women rowers of all ages, kept her young."
"Ruth was up in years, but she was not old," said Sophie Socha, president of the girls' club. "She was passionate about introducing women to the sport of rowing."
After moving to Masonic Village, Ruth met Richard Lewis Henderson. They married on Sept. 8, 2007.
She was a member of Zion Lutheran Church of Flourtown.
Her husband is her only immediate survivor.
Services: 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at Lownes Funeral Home, 659 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill. Contributions may be made to Philadelphia Girls' Rowing Club, 14 Kelly Drive, Boathouse Row, Philadelphia PA 19130, or Zion Lutheran Church, 654 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown PA 19031.