The Female Blondin

On an August afternoon in 1861, a young woman set out to cross the Thames on a tightrope - and to be the first person ever to do so. She was billed as Madame Genevieve, or the Female Blondin.

She started at Cremorne Gardens, heading towards Battersea, watched by the gathering crowds - but something went wrong. All of a sudden, the high wire was "swaying like a garden swing"; the weights that should have been keeping it tight had been cut away and stolen by someone who wanted to sell the lead!

Fortunately she managed to grab hold of a rope and slide down to a boat below. For most people, one attempt like that might have been enough; but she tried again a week later and crossed successfully in less than seven minutes.

Read more stories about adventures.

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Picture by Saoirse Louise.
Story sources: The John Johnson Ephemera Collection: The Female Blondin. Warwick Wroth, 1907: Cremorne and the Later London Gardens.