Susan B. Anthony
Women In Sports
Susan B. Anthony once said, “Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride on a wheel. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.” Sports have historically been an effective outlet and passion for many different types of people, and women have been breaking boundaries and crossing barriers in the realm of sports for centuries.
Donna de Varona
Donna de Varona is an American former competitive swimmer, Olympic gold medalist, former world record-holder, and television sportscaster. In 1960, at age 13, Donna qualified for her first U.S. Olympic swimming team. She already held the world record in the 400-meter individual medley, but the event was not included in the Olympic games. At the summer Olympics in Rome, she swam for the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the preliminary heats of the women’s 4x100 freestyle relay, but did not receive a medal because she did not swim in the final event. At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, she won the gold medal in the women’s 400-meter individual medley, beating her competition by a margin of six seconds and setting an Olympic record. After appearing on the covers of Sports Illustrated, Look, and Life magazines, de Varona was voted the “Most Outstanding Woman Athlete in the World” by the Associated Press and United Press International. Since few sports opportunities were available for women in sports in American high schools and colleges, de Varona retired from her sport and began her career in the male-dominated world of sports broadcasting.
Louise Stokes was a renowned champion athlete in Track and Field. At the 1932 Olympic Trials in Evanston, Illinois, Louise’s third place finish in the 100 meter dash one her a spot on the women’s 400-meter relay team for the Los Angeles Olympic Games along with Tidye Pickett. Both Stokes and Pickett served as the first two African American women to qualify for an Olympic team. However, Coach George Vreeland selected only white women for the final relay team. Four years later, she competed at the U.S. trials for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Although she again qualified for the Olympic relay team, she received the same treatment and was replaced by a white runner. She planned to try out for the 1940 games, but World War II precipitated the cancellation of the games. Following her retirement from running, she became a professional bowler. She founded the Colored Women’s Bowling League in 1941, and was a preeminent bowler for the next 30 years.
Elizabeth Wilkinson joined the sport of bare-knuckled boxing soon after it became popular in the early 1700s. First appearing in 1722, she squared off with an opponent by the name of Hannah Hyfield and the agreement was that the women would hold half a crown in each fist and the first one to drop one of her coins lost. This rule stopped scratches and gouges, which were common in boxing events at the time and particularly exciting to the crowds when women fought because they went bare to the waist just like men. Wilkinson was often referred to as “The Invincible City Championess.” She continued to fight for the next six years in venues owned by one of the most successful male boxers, Jim Figg. It wasn’t until the Victorian era that women, after thousands of years of fighting competitively in public, were shut out of bare-knuckle boxing.
Many historians regard Lizzie Arlington, known formally as Elizabeth Stroud, as the first female to play organized baseball in the 19th century. She was accustomed to playing baseball with her father and brothers in the Pennsylvania Coal Region, where she was born and raised. After watching her play, a prominent promoter engaged Arlington for $100 a week in hopes of making money on her as a gate attraction. She surprised the crowd when she debuted in 1898 while pitching for the reserve team of the Philadelphia Nationals. She frequently entered the grounds in a stylish horse drawn carriage with her hair done in the latest fashion. Arlington was known to play second base like a professional, but she faced immense difficulty in rising in the ranks. Many reporters claimed, “for a woman, she is a success.” Apart from Arlington and several other female players, women’s baseball in the 19th century caricatured the game. But she was part of a segment, however small, of the women’s movement in baseball that contributed to weakening prejudice against women in professional sports.
Lydia Ko is a New Zealand professional golfer, originally from Seoul, South Korea. She started playing golf as a five-year-old when her mother took her into a pro shop at the Pupuke Gold Club on Auckland’s North Shore. The shop was owned by Guy Wilson, who has been her coach ever since. She had been the top-ranked woman amateur golfer for over two years when she announced that she was turning professional in October of 2013. She became the youngest person ever to win an LPGA Tour event. In August 2013, she became the only amateur to win two LPGA Tour events. As an amateur she never missed a cut in 25 professional tournaments, and by September 2013 had risen to fifth in the Women’s World Gold Rankings in only 23 professional tournaments.