|"The Olympic Games", Cartoons Magazine, 1912|
|Hélène de Pourtalès, Sailor, 1900 Olympic Gold Medalist|
|Queenie Newall, Archer, 1908 Olympic Gold Medalist|
|Theresa Weld, Skater, 1920 Olympic Bronze Medalist|
However, one of the more controversial movements by Game officials was to remove the 800-meter race from the women’s track and field competitions in 1928, the same year it was introduced to the Olympic Games. Lynn Emery, professor at California Polytechnic University in Pomona, explains the following:
Many conflicting stories of the 800-meter run exist: the most common that five finalists dropped out of the race before the finish, five more collapsed at the tape, and the eleventh runner fainted in the locker room. Newspaper accounts spoke of the spectacle, of the runners falling headlong to the ground, of the prostrate and distressed forms. The Congress of the International Amateur Athletic Federation promptly voted to eliminate the 800-meter run since it appeared to be too strenuous for women.
A thorough examination of the evidence including eye-witness accounts showed that there were nine women in the 800-meter finals, all nine completed the race and several bettered the existing world’s record…Contrary to popular opinion, the runners did not fall on the track but several moved to the infield to lie down since they were not only winded but also disappointed at not winning.”[v]
|Betty Robinson (L), Track, 1928 Olympic Gold & Silver Medalist|
Spurred by incessant and erroneous media reports, affirmed by the social and cultural attitudes regarding female delicacy and feminine behavior, and sanctioned by the Vatican (even Pope Pius XI was in on the game), the 800-meter race would not be part of the women’s track and field competitions again until 1960.
|Tydie Pickett (L) and Louise Stokes (R), Track, 1936 Olympic Participants|
|Alice Coachman, Track, 1948 Olympic Gold Medalist|
Oddly, no one ever seems concerned with the masculinity or physiological issues surrounding male athletes, but I digress.
So, here we ladies are, forging ahead despite bias, despite social limitations, despite cultural expectations. The 2012 Olympics is the first in history where every participating nation has entered at least one female athlete (token or otherwise - this is what some news organizations are calling the two gals representing Saudi Arabia). When women are given an equal playing field, one absent of gender bias, sexism, racism, and discrimination, our potential is infinite. For proof, we only need to look at what we have accomplished under these conditions - :)
Blessings and happy sewing!
|1900 Olympics, Paris - Ladies' Golf|
|1904 Olympics, St. Louis - Charlotte Cooper, Tennis, Gold Medalist|
|1908 Olympics, London - Women's Gymnastics|
|1912 Olympics, Stockholm - British Women's Swim Team|
|1920 Olympics, Antwerp - Suzanne Lenglen, Tennis, Bronze Medalist|
|1924 Olympics, Paris - Adelaide Gehrig, Fencing, Olympic Participant|
|1928 Olympics, Amsterdam - Ethel Catherwood, High Jump, Gold Medalist|
|1932 Olympics, Los Angeles - Dorothy Poynton Hill, Swimming, Gold Medalist|
|1936 Olympics, Berlin - Hedwiga Wajsowna, Discus, Silver Medalist|
(Proper citation when referencing this article: Thornhill, Angela. "Hera's Daughters." The Merry Dressmaker. Blogspot, 15 AUG 2012. <http://themerrydressmaker.blogspot.com/2012/08/heras-daughters.html> (Accessed [Date]).
[i] “Case Study: Womens [sic] Participation in Olympic Games.” Higher Education Academy, FEB 2010. <http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/assets/hlst/documents/olympic_sig/case_studies/CS12-Womens-Participation-in-the-Olympic-Games.pdf> (Accessed 15 AUG 2012).
[ii] “Fact Sheet: Women in the Olympic Movement.” International Olympic Committee, JUN 2012. <http://www.olympic.org/Documents/Reference_documents_Factsheets/Women_in_Olympic_Movement.pdf> (Accessed 15 AUG 2012).
[iv] Zeitz, Barbara. “Women’s History.” American Association for University Women (AAUW), AUG 2004. < http://aauw-il.org/information/herstory/Aug2004.pdf> (Accessed 15 AUG 2012).
[v] Emery, Lynn. “And Examination of the 1928 Olympic 800 Meter Race For Women.” LA84 Foundation, 1985. < http://www.la84foundation.org/SportsLibrary/NASSH_Proceedings/NP1985/NP1985zc.pdf> (Accessed 15 AUG 2012).
[vi] Note: African American men have been competing in the Olympic Games since 1904 when George Poage, a Missouri native, won two bronze medals for his wins in the 200 and 400 meter races. African American women, however, were not granted entrance into the Olympic until the Berlin Games of 1936 (This was also the year that Jesse Owens won the gold medal in track and field, humiliating Hitler, his regime, and the devastating the Nazi perception of Arian superiority).