Jane Fauntz: Two-Time Olympian and Chicago’s First Female Diving Star; Essay by Robert Pruter

To explain concept in textJane Fauntz ranks as one of the most prominent swimming and diving stars between the wars, due both to her being a two-time Olympian, in 1928 and 1932 (when she medaled third) and to her undeniable glamour at a time when Americans hailed their female swimmers and divers for their beauty.





Jane Fauntz was a two time Olympian—competing in the 1928 Amsterdam Games in the 100-meters breaststroke, where she was eliminated in the semi-finals; and in the 1932 Los Angeles Games, where she took bronze in the three-meter springboard dive. Winning innumerable diving contests she was Chicago’s first female diving star. Fauntz was still a student at Hyde Park High School when she competed in 1928, and in both Olympics she was a star on Chicago’s premier athletic club for women, the Illinois Women’s Athletic Club . After her Olympics experience she built a considerable professional career as a swimming show entertainer.

Fauntz was born in New Orleans on December 19. 1910, and raised on the Chicago South Side in the Hyde Park community. Her father, Charles Fauntz, was a civil engineer for the Illinois Central Railroad, and her mother Ada Fauntz, was a school teacher. Like in many other stories of famous swimmers, Jane had a near fatal drowning accident at the age of 11 forced her to learn how to swim. Within five years she was a world class swimmer and diver.1

Fauntz was fortunate to have attended Hyde Park High School, which under trainer and coach Doris E. Butts had one of the best swim programs for girls in the city. Fauntz competed on Hyde Park’s 1926 swim team as a sophomore, and at the same time competed in AAF and AAU meets, chiefly in diving events, which the yearbook proudly took notice of. After her sophomore year, however, the Chicago schools banned all interscholastic contests for girls. She was listed on the school’s swimming team in the 1926, 1927, and 1928 yearbooks. ‘

Fauntz was regularly written up on in the school newspaper and the 1928 yearbook featured her in a full-page spread. The acceptability of Fauntz’s extensive outside swim competition was taken for granted, but also it went unmentioned in the 1927 and 1928 yearbooks her deprivation of opportunity to compete in high school contests. What happened to Jane Fauntz’s swimming career at Hyde Park, where suddenly she could no longer compete against her fellow competitors from other schools, was replicated for girls throughout the Chicago Public High Schools.2 

While there was limited competitive swimming for girls in the high schools, elsewhere they had many opportunities, notably at the Illinois Woman’s Athletic Club. Some settlement houses also supported women’s swim competition, notably the Jewish People’s Institute and the Emil G. Hirsch Center (formerly the Sinai Social Center).. Industrial firms, such as Western Electric, formed girls swim teams as well. The newspapers regularly reported on high school-age girls achievements at meets sponsored by clubs and two amateur organizations, the AAF and the Central AAU.3

Fauntz began her competitive swimming and diving at the Hirsch Center in 1925, under coach George Eckert, and competed in Amateur Athletic Foundation (AAF) meets. She competed at first in freestyle, but then concentrated mostly on diving along with occasional breaststroke competition. She won both the indoor and outdoor diving events at the AAF championships in 1926, and won her first Central AAU title in March 1926, when she won the diving indoor championship. The Hyde Park High annual proudly announced that win in its report on its swimming team. In December 1926, she left the Hirsch Center and joined the newly formed swim team of the IWAC.4

Fauntz was always the biggest star at the IWAC, but the team she joined had some formidable talent, notably Mary Lou Quinn and Emma Shmaitis. Unfortunately for Fauntz she suffered an injury that kept her out of the winter season, although her IWAC team swept all the Central AAU meets. By summer, Fauntz was in fine form, and defended her Central AAU outdoor diving championship in early August.5

The year 1928 was a breakout one for Fauntz, but not a wholly successful. Around January, crossing the street in downtown Chicago she was hit by an automobile and severely injured her right arm. The small consolation was that the doctor recommended swimming to help it heal. In April she helped her team win the Central AAU indoor championship, by again winning the indoor low diving title. Her sister, eleven year old Ruth, won the junior diving title. The Olympic Games in Amsterdam was coming up in August, and many of the meets were in preparation.

In New York, at Rockaway Beach, she chose not to compete in diving, thinking the competition was too formidable. She successfully qualified in the 200-meter breaststroke, when she took second in the 220-yard national title and Olympic qualifying event. But the 200-meter was not really her event, as she had always competed in the 100-meter, and found that in racing the additional 100 meters she would tire and struggle. Her left arm was still weak from the ill-effects of her automobile accident.  At the Olympic Games, she had the added misfortune of pulling groan muscles in both thighs, and so Fauntz stoically recognized the inevitable when she was eliminated in the semi-finals.6

In the fall of 1928, Fauntz left Hyde Park High at the beginning of her senior year, and went to California, where she attended San Pedro High School in the Los Angeles area and trained at local swim clubs. She originally tried to train at the Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC), under Fred Cady, and the club of her biggest diving rival, Olympic great Georgia Coleman. But she was not made to feel welcome there, especially from Coleman (who was “very unfriendly”), and left to train at other local clubs. At the end of the fall semester, Fauntz returned to Hyde Park High to finish out her senior year.7

In 1929, Fauntz proved she was one year too early for Olympic fame, when in the -AAU women’s indoor nationals, she won two titles, the 100-yard breaststroke and the low board diving event, the latter beating defending champion Georgia Coleman by one point. As indicative of the intense rivalry between the two swimmers, Fauntz in reflecting back on the meet noted that Coleman never came to congratulate her. In the National AAU outdoor championships, held in Hawaii in early August, Fauntz took second in the ten foot (three meter) springboard, to the incomparable Georgia Coleman.8 

Fauntz entered the school of the Art Institute in Chicago to pursue her interest in art in the fall of 1929, which allowed her to continue to train and compete in amateur swimming. In November, 1929 at the Illinois state championships, Fauntz took first in both the 100- yard breaststroke, leading a IWAC sweep of the event, also won the low board (also leading an IWAC sweep where her sister Ruth took second). A month later, at the Middle States championships held at the IWAC pool, Fauntz led the 300-yard medley relay team to the championship and national record for a 60-yard pool, beating a mark set by the WSA of New York. She and her sister Ruth also took one-two in the low board diving.9

To illustrate concept in text

Jane Fauntz (right) posing Opera singer Mary Garden and fellow IWAC competitor, track star, Helen Filkey, at the IWAC pool, 1930.

Fauntz got off to a good start in the 1930, when at the National AAU indoor championships held in Miami she successfully defended her low springboard diving title, again beating Coleman. This gave her great satisfaction.10

Fauntz entered the University of Illinois in the fall of 1930, and her studies at the university often kept her from competing during the next four years. She majored in art, and was elected vice president of the Illinois Society of Illustrators chapter on the University of Illinois campus. She belonged to the University of Illinois swim team, but universities of the day did not allow face to face competition (telegraph competition only). They felt that women were unsuited to the athletic and emotional strains of intense interschool contests (imagine an Olympic competitor like Fauntz hearing that argument). Fauntz did not compete in the nationals in 1931, for example, because she was taking finals at the University of Illinois. Her training was also severely restricted, because the women’s pool at the university “was inadequate for diving,” and she was rebuffed by school authorities when she asked to use the most adequate men’s pool.11

To illustrate concept in text

Jane Fauntz, 1931

Fauntz during 1932 trained and competed with her eye on making the United States Olympic team for the Los Angeles Games in August. Her focus was solely on the diving events, and particularly the three-meter springboard dive, which was higher than the usual one-meter dive she competed on. Her task was great, having gone through long layoffs in training and competing while at Illinois. To train for the Olympic trials in July, she had to wait until school let out, meaning that she had only the month of June to train. First she had to beat the powerful squad of divers that the IWAC had produced, namely Evelyn Kennedy and sister Ruth Fauntz. She successfully beat them to qualify for the Olympic Trials at Jones Beach in New York City in July. The two-day trials at Jones Beach proved to be a big disappointment to the WLAC, but a big win for Fauntz, the only WLAC competitor to qualify for the Olympics. Although taking third place behind Katherine Rawls and Georgia Coleman, she was pleased that only a point separated each of them. Because of high winds, Fauntz scratched from competing in the 10-meter platform dive, which was not her strong event anyway. Fauntz would go to Los Angeles a second-time Olympian with high hopes of getting a medal.12

At the Los Angeles Games, Fauntz was a part of the Olympic contingent that was considered the glamour athletes, all attractive young ladies with winsome smiles and form fitting bathing suits. The Chicago Tribune wired nationwide a feature article that took up a lot of real estate on the broadsheet by Westbrook Pegler on the women’s diving competition, with a focus on the divers’ attractiveness, Said Pegler, “…this matter of face and figure, has nothing to do with the points scores and championships, but when the four best divers in Olympic competition of a sunny morning are all good looking kids…that is something above and beyond what the price of admission calls for.” Fauntz, unusually elegant and graceful, was one of the glamour queens, “having true star presence on the board,” according sport historian Doris H. Pieroth. This did not go unnoticed by one of the diving judges, from Hungary, who thought the swimsuits of Fauntz and Georgia Coleman were too revealing in the low back cut and had them change to more modest outfits before competition could start.13

When the diving competition finally got underway, Fauntz emerged on top after the three compulsory dives, a great part due to her remarkable ability to make the entries with a minimum of splash. Fame sportswriter Paul Gallico writing about her said, “Her marvelous body flowed through the dives with the smoothness of running quicksilver,” and predicted she would win. But Georgia Coleman loomed right behind, and in the optionals she was usually supreme, electing to do the most difficult dives. Fauntz was still leading after the first optional, but on her second optional Fauntz did not help herself, when she lost her concentration on a dive she repeatedly had scored 10 on in the Nationals, and made a hash of it. Fauntz, however, did win a medal in the final standings, taking bronze, after Coleman took gold and young Katherine Rawls took silver.14

Fauntz immediately after the Olympics joined thirteen other members of the women’s swimming and diving team to tour, giving exhibitions, notably in Agua Caliento in Mexico. She returned to the University of Illinois to finish up her degree in the fall of 1932, but continued to do occasional exhibitions, such as the one in January 1933 at the IWAC pool, where she and Georgia Coleman gave an exhibition. She had retired from competitive swimming. During the summer and fall, at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago, she presented a regular swimming and diving show. There the Chicago Tribune ladies page reporter caught up with her for a feature related to her attractiveness. The story was titled, “Diver Proves Athlete Can Be Feminine.”15

To expalin concept in text

Jane Fauntz in 1937, at her most glamorous, doing inhibitions and taking many endorsement and modeling opportunities.

Fauntz after graduating from University of Illinois in art dabbled in a lot of different activities besides performing at occasional exhibitions and water shows during the Depression years. One winter, 1934-35, she worked as a swimming instructor at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, Arizona. She did a little modeling work in Chicago for Saks Fifth Avenue. Her attractiveness and Olympics celebrity brought her endorsement deals—notably a milk advertisement in which she sold the healthy virtues of milk and a cigarette advertisement in which sold the virtues of Camels. She made the cover of Ladies Home Journal and appeared on a Wheaties box. She did a little designing of bathing suits, presumably with low back cuts. Fauntz also did a little journalism, writing about swimming for New York papers and the Chicago Tribune.16

While Jane Fauntz was designing bathing suits in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1936, she made the re-acquaintance with Edgar Manske (whom she had known in Chicago). Manske had played for Northwestern University and was playing in the pros for the Philadelphia Eagles. Fauntz married Manske in October 1936, and thereafter she went by the name Jane Fauntz Manske. In the winter of 1937, Fauntz toured the country with a troupe of professional swimming and diving stars (almost all former Olympians), among them her greatest rival, Georgia Coleman. The troupe brought alone with them a 75 by 25 foot by 7 foot pool for diving and swimming. In Chicago, at the Coliseum the troupe drew 4,000 fans a day for the evening show on a Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.17

Fauntz returned to Chicago in 1937, when Philadelphia traded her husband to the Chicago Bears, but in subsequent football trades of her husband, she moved to Pittsburgh, and then back to Chicago in 1939. When Edgar Manske joined the Navy in 1942, Fauntz returned to one of her first loves, art, and built a thriving craft manufacturing business of ceramic figurines of little boys and girls and “angelpuss” pins (sold under the trade name “Jane Fauntz Originals.” In the 1950s, in California with her husband, she began a twenty-year career of teaching art on the high school level. After her teaching career was over she developed a full career in painting and sculpture. Fautz created the FINA [Federation Internationale de Natation Amateur] Award. The award was given to Olympic champion diver Greg Louganis in 1984. Fauntz died on May 30, 1989 in Escondido, California.18


1.  Fourteenth Census of the United States 1920–Population, Bureau of the Census, Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, Ward 7, Enumeration District: 425, Sheet 2B (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1992); “Charles P. Fauntz,” Chicago Tribune, 28 October 1959; “Jane Fauntz (USA) 1991 Honor Pioneer Swimmer/Diver International Swimming Hall of Fame [http://www.ishof.org/jane-fauntz-(usa).html], accessed 18 September 2017.

2.  “Jane Fauntz,” The Aitchpe 1928 (Chicago: Hyde Park High, 1928), 204; “Popular H.P. Girl Swims to Victory in Olympic Trials,” Hyde Park Weekly, 19 September 1928, p. 4; Robert Pruter, “Girls Interscholastic Swimming in the Chicago Public Schools, 1917-1934,” Illinois High School Association, Illinois H.S.toric [http://www.ihsa.org/NewsMedia/IllinoisHStoric/IllinoisHStoricArticle.aspx?url=/archive/hstoric/swimming_girls_early.htm], accessed 18 September 2017.

3.  ”A ‘Medal-Some’ Mermaid,” Chicago Tribune, 19 December 1920; “Hawthorne Girls Swim in Morton High Pool,” Chicago Tribune, 28 March 1923; “Twins Star in I.W.A.C. Swim Meet for Girls,” Chicago Tribune, 12 December 1926; “Four I.W.A.C. Swimmers Qualify for Olympic Trials,” Chicago Tribune, 16 June 1928.

4. “C.A.A. Relay Tankers Break World Mark,” Chicago Tribune, 10 March 1926; “Girls’ Swimming Team,” Aitchepe 1926: Chicago: Hyde Park High School, 1926, p. 192; “Swimmers Ready? Go!” , Chicago Tribune, 25 December 1926; “Popular H.P. Girl,” 19 September 1928.

5.  “I.W.A.C. Wins Swim Crown in A.A.U. Meet,” Chicago Tribune, 8 August 1927.

6. “I.W.A.C. Team Wins Central Swim Title,” Chicago Tribune¸ 21 April 1928; “Coast Girl Clips World’s Swim Mark,” Chicago Tribune, 2 July 1928; The Ninth Olympiad Being the Official Report of the Olympic Games of 1928 Celebrated in Amsterdam (Amsterdam: Netherlands Olympic Committee, 1928, pp. 795-96. Jane Fauntz Manske, interview by George A. Hodak, Escondido, California, July 1987, Amateur Athletic Foundation of California, 1988, pp. 4-6, 13-14.

7. “Popular H.P. Girl Swims to Victory in Olympic Trials,” Hyde Park Weekly, 19 September 1928, p. 4; Jane Fauntz Manske interview, pp. 18-19.

8.  Jane Fauntz Manske interview, p. 19; French Lane, “Jane Fauntz Wins Two U.S. Swim Titles, Chicago Tribune,1 March 1929; “Jane Fauntz Second in National A.A.U. Diving,” Chicago Tribune, 8 August 1929.

9.  Jane Fauntz Manske, interview, p. 19; “C.A.A. Swimmers Win State Meet at Medinah A.C.” Chicago Tribune, 16 November 1929; “I.W.A.C. Swimmers Lower 300 Yard Relay Record,” Chicago Tribune, 14 December 1929.

10. Jane Fauntz Manske, interview, pp. 19-20.

11. Jane Fauntz Manske,interview, pp. 19-20; Betty Eckersall, “Women in Sports,” Chicago Tribune, 30 August 1931; “Chicago Boy and Girl Head Society at U. of Illinois,” Chicago Tribune, 21 February 1932.

12. Jane Fauntz Manske interview, pp. 21 “I.W.A.C. Swim Stars Set for Trials Tonight,” Chicago Tribune, 20 June 1932; Doris H. Pieroth, Their Day in the Sun: Women of the 1932 Olympics (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1996): p. 79.

13.  Westbrook Pegler, “You Get Your Money’s Worth at Olympic Swim—In Loveliness,” Chicago Tribune, 13 August 1932; Pieroth, p. 121.

14.  Jane Fauntz Manske interview, pp. 26-27.

15. “Jane Fauntz Appears at Agua with Swim Stars,” Chicago Tribune, 17 August 1932; “Textbooks Have to Wait” . Chicago Tribune, 24 January 1933; Antoinette Donnelly, “Diver Proves Athlete Can Be Feminine,” Chicago Tribune, 2 September 1933.

16. Jane Fauntz Manske interview, p. 32-35; Arch Ward, “Talking It Over,” Chicago Tribune, 14 November 1934; “Drink Mil k” [advertisement], Chicago Tribune, 2 January 1935; “Camels Don’t Get Your Wind” [advertisement], Chicago Tribune, 3 September 1935; Jane Fauntz, “Jane Fauntz Gives Advice to 100 Yard Swimmers,” Chicago Tribune, 4 July 1937.

17. Jane Fauntz Manske interview, p. 36; “Jane Fauntz, Manske, N.U. End, Married,” Chicago Tribune, 11 October 1936; “Swimming Stars Will Perform in Coliseum Show,” Chicago Tribune, 31 December 1936; “4,000 See Swim Stars on Second Night of Show,” Chicago Tribune, 8 January 1937.

18. Janet Peck, “Olympic Diver Plunges Into World of Art,” Chicago Tribune, 18 August 1946; Jane Fauntz Manske interview, pp. 40-41; “Jane Fauntz,” SR/Olympic Sports [https://www.sports-reference.com/olympics/athletes/fa/jane-fauntz-1.html], accessed 25 September 2017.

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2 Responses to Jane Fauntz: Two-Time Olympian and Chicago’s First Female Diving Star; Essay by Robert Pruter

  1. Pingback: Helen Filkey: How Missing the Olympics Crushed Her Dream of Track and Field Immortality; Essay by Robert Pruter | The World of Early Amateur & Youth Sports in Chicago

  2. Pingback: Ethel Lackie: Surprise Olympic Swimming Champion; Essay by Robert Pruter | The World of Early Amateur & Youth Sports in Chicago

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