Period Dress Costume Contest Honors Women's Dipsea Hike Pioneers

The Finish Line at the 1921 Women's Dipsea Hike

Trophy Winners at the 1921 Women's Dipsea Hike

To honor her late grandmother Laura for the 100th anniversary celebration of the Women’s Dipsea Hike on Saturday morning, April 21, Valerie Stratta Trenev of San Francisco is going to dress up – like it’s 1918.

Valerie plans to take part in a period costume contest in Old Mill Park in Mill Valley prior to the start of the celebratory hike at 9 a.m. The contest, sponsored by the Title IX women’s clothing and athletic clothing store in Mill Valley, will include a panel of judges – National Park Service Ranger Mia Monroe, Mill Valley History Room Librarian Cate Mayfield, and Kathryn Yost, Arts Program Coordinator, City of Mill Valley – and begin at approximately 8 a.m.

Title IX is donating $250, $100, and $50 gift cards to the top three winners.

For Valerie, wearing clothes from that era 100 years ago will be a way of honoring her grandmother, who was a pioneer in women’s pursuit to compete in running events that at that time were exclusively for men.

“It’s very, very special for me to participate in the hike. I’ll dress up and reminisce about my grandmother and my great aunt (Helen),” Valerie says. “I feel like those ladies back then were so tough.”

It wasn't until 1928 -- 10 years later -- that women competed in the long distance running in the Olympics for the first time and 48 years before a woman (Elaine Pedersen) first officially competed against men in the Dipsea. Kathrine Switzer -- long acknowledged as a pioneer for women's running in this country -- didn't compete in the Boston Marathon until 1967.

“My grandmother Laura didn’t talk much about the Dipsea Women’s Hike. She was very practical. All the men talked about the race constantly,” says Valerie, who started competing in the Dipsea race with men in the 70s. “She did say that they took the ferry to Marin from San Francisco and they danced on the boat. She also said she won two pounds of coffee in the hike in 1921 and that her younger sister, Helen, won a trophy.” 

In fact, Valerie’s great aunt, Helen Vezzani Signorio, lived to be 103, the longest living participant in the Women’s Dipsea Hike.

The Dipsea has been a Stratta family tradition. Valerie’s father, the late Tony Stratta, missed the Dipsea only once in 60 years. The last time he competed, in 2007, he was 77 years old. Valerie’s brother, Jim, still runs with Valerie in the Dipsea and her children, Anthony and Laura, competed in the annual trail race, the oldest in the country, in honor of their grandfather.

Laura’s husband, Dominic, and Tony won the Father-Son Dipsea Trophy five times in the 1940s and 1950s.

In 1993 – for the 75th anniversary of the Women’s Dipsea Hike – Tony Stratta contacted Dipsea historian and author Barry Spitz, who wrote a story about Laura being a Women’s Dipsea Hike survivor. Laura, then 88 years old, said in the 1921 Women’s Dipsea Hike she wore “my regular, high, brown, leather hiking boots – like the ones soldiers wore – and woolen stockings. I also wore trousers, leggings over the boots, a blouse, and, of course, a bandana.”