Doris O’Mara was born in Yonkers on December 22, 1908 and attended Public School No. 3 and graduated from Yonkers High School. Her family spent summers at Milford, Connecticut, where she and her brothers, Charlie and Bill, encouraged her and she scored her initial victory of note when she won the Myrtle Beach long distance swim.
She joined the Women’s Swimming Association of New York where the renowned Louis Handley who introduced and taught the American crawl stroke coached her. With the Women’s Swimming Association team she toured the United States giving exhibitions. In 1921 she finished third in the National Pentathlon, and all round swimming performance featuring all the strokes plus diving and plunging-for distance.
In 1922 she won the Junior National 50-yard freestyle; the Junior National 880-yard freestyle; and the junior national 150-yard backstroke. The following two years she competed nationally, outdoors and indoors, winning the Senior National 100 Yard freestyle and the Senior Metropolitan 100 yard backstroke, a title she held for three successive years.
Her swimming prowess reached a peak in 1924 when she won a place on the U.S. Olympic Team and competed in Paris. Her teammates included swimming greats Johnny Weismuller and Gertrude Ederle among others.
In 1926 she was elected team captain of the Women’s Swimming Association and was a member of several record breaking relay teams. She also starred in an underwater motion picture produced by sports writer Grantland Rice. In 1928 she was honored by being named the first women assistant manager of the Olympic Swimming Committee in Amsterdam, Holland, serving under the dean of all college swim coaches, Robert Kipphuth. The “commander” of the team was General Douglas MacArthur.
Doris attended the College of New Rochelle where she earned honor letters in basketball and tennis. After graduation in 1934 she began a coaching career in swimming and taught at Hunter College and at various camps and country clubs.
In 1932 she married John F. Murphy, a school administrator. When her husband was appointed Superintendent of Schools in Torrington, Connecticut, Doris renewed her friendship with Robert Kiphuth. When she organized and coached the Connecticut Women’s Swim Club, Coach Kiphuth permitted girls to use the Payne Whitney Pool at Yale for the first time. It was here that she originated age group swimming, and her efforts resulted in several state and national championships.
In 1962 she was selected for the All-American Swimming Team in the backstroke. The Women’s swimming cycle in America, beginning in the 1920’s is richer, more developed, and more proficient due to the contributions of Doris O’Mara.