18 Women Who Made Athletics Possible for the Rest of Us
“Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world,” remarked Susan B. Anthony. “I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride on a wheel. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.”
Still, women aren’t permitted to race in the Tour de France.
For the first time it its more than 460-year history, St. Andrews opened its golf course to female members in February 2015.
We’ve come a long way, a very long way, since Title IX passed in 1972, with 52 percent of collegiate athletes being female. But long before that civil rights law passed, women were putting their mark on the sports world. A lot of firsts made way for a series of seconds, thirds, and so on.
Today, we can stand as proud athletes, no matter our sport, thanks to these (and so many other) strong, confident, fearless women.
Diane Crump – Jockey
She was the first woman to jockey at the Kentucky Derby in 1970, just a mere century after the race began. Her career holds 230 wins.
Katherine Switzer – Runner
She was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon in 1967, even if she didn’t exactly have permission. Race manager Jock Semple jumped in with the runners and shouted, “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers!”. She didn’t, and plans to run again in 2017. She’ll be 70 and will mark the 50th anniversary of her historic run.
Jane Fonda – Fitness Guru
She released the world’s first at-home exercise video, Workout, in 1982. It has since sold 17 million copies.
Jenny Hanley – Hockey
She was the first woman to play on a men’s college ice hockey team at Hamline University in 1991. In that historic game she made 26 saves helped her team to a 5-2 victory.
Becky Hammon – Basketball
She is the NBA’s first female regular season coach, starting in the 2014 season for the San Antonio Spurs. She played 13 seasons for the WNBA and ranks seventh in that league’s history.
Sarah Attar – Running
She was the first woman to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics, competing in track at the 2012 Games. She finished last to a standing ovation.
Katie Hnida – Football
She was the first woman to ever score in a Divison I NCAA football game, scoring two points for the University of New Mexico in 2003.
Alice Coachman – Running
She was the first black woman to win Olympic gold. She was the only woman to receive a gold medal at the 1948 games, which she won for the high jump. She’s credited with opening the doors for track stars like Evelyn Ashford, Florence Griffith Joyner and Jackie Joyner-Kersee.
Sheryl Swoopes – Basketball
She was the first player to sign for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in 1996. She’s a six-time all star and three-time player of the year.
Shannon Eastin – Football
She was the first woman to officiate an NFL regular season game in 2012. She was a line judge during a Rams vs. Lions game, with more than 16 years experience officiating at the collegiate level.
Violet Palmer – Basketball
She was the first woman to officiate NBA games. She’s still working for the league, having been on the job since 1997.
Nancy Lieberman – Basketball
She was the first woman to coach a professional men’s basektball team, leading the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks to the playoffs in her first season. She played and coached for the WNBA, earned a silver medal at the 1976 Olympic Games, and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. This season she’s an analyst for Thunder Live.
Lisa Lindahl – Fashion
She was responsible for developing the first sports bra, originally known as a jockbra, in 1977. Her invention, which fused together two jockstraps, made it possible for women to workout and participate in sports.
Ellen O’Neal – Skater
She was the first professional female skater, she was known as the “godmother” of the sport in the 1970s.
Gertrude Ederle – Swimming
She was the first woman to swim the English Channel in 1926. She won two bronze and a gold medal at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris.
Lyn Lemaire – Triathlete
She was the first woman triathlete and first female Ironman in 1979.
Junko Tabei – Climber
She was the first woman to reach Mount Everest’s summit in 1975. In 1992, she became the first women to complete the Seven Summits, the highest mountain on each continent.
Billie Jean King – Tennis
She’s the first woman to have a major sporting venue named for her, not to mention being a force in both tennis and female athletics. She’s the first woman to receive a Presidential Medal of Freedom, first woman to be named as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year, and first woman to receive the NFL Players Association Lifetime Achievement Award. She was the world’s highest ranking tennis female five times, and holds 20 Wimbledon titles.
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