WOMEN AND SPORTS
"Babe Didrikson: The Greatest Female Athlete of all Time"
"The Real Story Behind the Passage of Title IX"
"Title IX and Its Effects on Sports Programs in High School and Collegiate Athletics"
"She was Somebody"
"Girl Who Would Never Walk Went On to Earn Three Gold Medals"
"I Can't Has Never Been in my Vocabulary"
Terms to Know:
Title IX; Babe Didrikson; Althea Gibson; Wilma Rudolph
THE THREE PIONEERS
Babe Didrikson - America= s first great female athlete
Born Mildred Ella Didriksen (note that the spelling of the last name changed) in Port Arthur, Texas, in 1911 (she is often erroneously noted as having a birth year of 1914), Babe was raised in Beaumont, Texas. She claimed that her nickname was given to here because of her ability to hit long home runs, as in Babe Ruth, Babe was a marvelous athlete in every sport that she undertook, be it basketball, track, golf, baseball, tennis swimming, diving, billiards, etc etc. tried. When ask was there anything she did not play, she responded, A Yeah, dolls!@
Babe was voted the greatest female athlete oft he first half of the 20th century by the Associated press (AP), which selected her six times as the female athlete of the year, once for track and five times for golf.
In Babe= s hey day as an athlete from the 1932 Olympics until her retirement from golf in 1955, female athletes were seen as freakish or even unacceptable. All of 5 foot 5 inches, Babe was the opposite of feminine, and seem to have little interest in anything other than sports, including men. Consider these two opposing viewpoints about the Babe...
Joe Williams of the NY World-Telegram; A It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed at home, got themselves prettied up, and waited for the phone to ring.@
Famous sportswriter Grantland Rice: A She is beyond belief until you see her perform.@
She was accused of being a prima donna, boastful, cocky, flamboyant, arrogant, overbearing, competitive, and self confident.
Babe was a high basketball player, and was noticed by the Employer Casualty Company of Dallas, for who she went to work. Hired for her athleticism, she played on the company AAU basketball team, the Golden Cyclones. She led the team to one national title championship. In 1932, while still working for ECC, she competed in the AAU National track and Field Championship. She won five of the ten events contested and tied for first in the high jump, and single handedly won the team title for ECC.
With this success, she was chosen for the 1932 Summer Olympic Games, to be held in Los Angeles. After qualifying in five events, she took part in three, winning gold medals in the javelin and 80 meter hurdles and a silver medal in the high jump.
Babe turned to golf for a career when the AAU declared she was ineligible to remain as an amateur because she had appeared in an automobile advertisement. Her amateur golf career was also soon ended, and she entered the few Open tournaments that existed. Thus in 1950, it should not surprise you that she was one of the founding member of the LPGA.
As a competitor at the 1938 Women= s LA Golf Open, the Babe fell for George Zaharias and found love for the first time. They married within a year. George was a professional wrestler (The Weeping Greek from Cripple Creek) who became her manager and advisor. She later found comfort with Betty Dodd, golfer of modest talents. Betty moved in with the Babe, and Didrikson seemed to lose interest in her marriage after that.
At the height of her success, Babe was diagnosed with cancer in 1953. She received treatment for the disease, and was able to compete on the golf tour again in 1954, winning 5 more tournaments. By 1955 the cancer had returned and spread throughout her body, and she was forced to give up her career. On 9/27/56, after an extended period in the hospital in Galveston, Texas, the Babe passed away, at the age of 45.
Babe is a member of both the Track and Field Hall fo Fame and the Women= s Golf Hall of Fame. Among her words of wisdom: A The Babe is here. Who= s coming in second?@
ALTHEA GIBSON: The A Jackie Robinson of Tennis@
Althea Gibson was born in Silver, South Carolina on August 25, 1927, but was raised on the streets of Harlem, NY. She was the first black tennis player to appear at the US Tennis Open and at Wimbledon. She won 56 career singles and doubles titles, including five major singles championships. Gibson played at a time when segregation was still the rule, and she paved the way for fellow black tennis players, such as the great Arthur Ashe and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena.
Originally a table tennis player in the recreation departments of NYC, she often skipped school and seemed headed nowhere until she was discovered by Dr. Walter Johnson, a black community leader from Lynchburg, Virginia, who took her under his wing and developed her tennis game. He later did the same for Arthur Ashe. Because of her race, Gibson was unwelcome at the exclusive tennis clubs which hosted the great tennis matches, including the US Open. She played in a black tennis organization, the ATA, American tennis association, where she was their national champion ten straight years starting in 1947. The ATA was finally able to convinced the USTA to allow her to enter the US Open at Forest Hills NY in 1950, and she appeared at Wimbledon in England in 1951 (Gibson was age 23 - compare that to the burn out ages of today= s tennis prodigies).
After graduating from pre-dominantly black Florida A&M in 1963, Gibson won her first singles major in 1956 in France. The next year she finally won at Wimbledon and at the US Open in 1957 at the ripe old age of 30, all the while breaking new ground for black athletes and black female athletes. She repeated her US and Wimbledon titles in 1958, and was the first black athlete to be voted best American female athlete in 1957, which she won again the next year. Hoping to make some money, Althea turned tennis professional in 1959, but was forced to play exhibition matches to earn a living. She tried Hollywood for a while, appearing with John Wayne in 1959 in A The Horse Soldiers.@ She also took up golf, and was the first black to play on the LPGA tour in 1962. Althea married in 1965.
Tennis finally modernized and opened its doors for professionals in 1968, and Althea tried some tournaments, but at the age of 41 she could not hope to compete. Althea spent many years as a tennis pro, teaching others to play the game, and later worked for the state of New Jersey, after she settled in the community of East Orange.
In her last years, in declining health,. She lived off of Social Security, until her poor financial situation was discovered by modern tennis players, who provided her with much in the way of donations. After suffering a heart attack, Althea died on September 30, 2003.
Althea Gibson is a member of four halls of fame: South Carolina, Florida, Black Athletes, and the National Lawn Tennis. Her autobiography, published in 19578 was titled, I Always Wanted to be Somebody.
Wilma Rudolph was born in Clarksville, TN, 6/23/40, the 20th of 22 children. She was raised during the high days of racial segregation in the South. Wilma was born prematurely at 4.5 lbs, and suffered through many childhood diseases, and contracted polio. There were major concerns if she would ever walk or walk properly, but thanks to the Medical College at pre-dominantly black Fisk University in Nashville, she learned to walk with metal leg braces. Thanks to hard work at home, by 12 she was able to walk properly.
Wilma played on her high school basketball team and led them to a state title, but it was track coach Ed Temple of Tennessee State who discovered her great speed. Though there was no track team at Burt HS, Temple took her to Tennessee State for summer training, and she earned a place on the US Track team heading for Melbourne Olympics in 1956, at the age of 16.
Wilma earned a Bronze Medal in the 4x100 relay. Wilma returned to the Olympics at Rome in 1960 and came through with flying colors, under the pressure of high expectations. Wilma won three Gold Medals, in the 100m dash, 200m dash and 4x100 relay. Her success earned her a number of prestigious awards, include UPI Athlete of the Year for 1960, the AP female athlete for 1960 and the 1961 Sullivan Award for sportsmanship.
When Wilma returned home to Clarksville, the city wanted to hold a parade and banquet for her, She requested that both be racially integrated, and for once the city came together. Wilma settled down to teach elementary school and coach the track team in the high school, but she moved on to coach in Maine and Indiana. She became a highly requested public speaker, was a sports broadcaster, and she founded the Wilma Rudolph Foundation to provide free sports coaching for underprivileged children. She wrote her autobiography Wilma in 1997. She married 1963 and had four children.
Wilma Rudolph died far too early, on November 12, 1994 in Nashville TN at the age of 54 of brain cancer. In 1997, Governor Donald Sundquist of Tennessee declared June 23 to be Wilma Rudolph Day.
EQUAL OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN
TITLE IX, Educational Amendment of 1972
Title IX was authored by Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana. It stated that.......
No person in the United States on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal aid.
Before Title IX, girls were not supposed to be athletes, and their connection to sports seemed limited to cheerleading. At Bethpage High School in NY in the 1960s girls competed in archery, basketball, and field hockey. There was no girls track team or softball team or volleyball team. In high schools across the country, girls basketball was limited to a three on three game, six girls playing at once, three on offense and three of defense, considered less strenuous on the girls.
A comparison of the male/female college experience before Title IX
1971, there were an estimated 300,000 girls playing high school sports in the USA, at a time when 3.7 million boys played sports.
1971, 18% of female high school graduates completed college, 26% of male HS graduates completed college.
1972, 9% of medical degrees went to women; 1994, 38%
1972, 7% of law degrees went to women; 1994, 43%
1977. 25% of doctoral degrees went to women; 1994, 44%
In 1966, Luci Baines Johnson, the daughter of then President LBJ was refused admission to the Georgetown University nursing program because she was married.
Title IX required compliance from colleges in
1. Athletic financial assistance
2. Accumulation of athletic interests and abilities
3. Equality in other program areas ( for example, travel and per diem costs; scheduling of games, practice times and facilities; locker rooms; housing and dining; and publicity)
Compliance was not required on a sport by sport basis but on a men/women program basis
Unfortunately, there are many critics of Title IX, most of whom claimed that college have been forced to close down sports programs by the law. The biggest casualty under this belief has been men= s wrestling.
Title IX opened the way for great advances and great athletes in women= s sports. Women, thanks to the work of a great pioneering athlete, Billie Jean King, have progressed in tennis, with equal prize money offered at the Majors. In basketball, there is the WNBA.. Women= s World Cup Soccer. The LPGA still remains competitive, offering top flight golfers such as the rising American star, Michelle Wie, probably the most recognizable American female athlete today . In women= s basketball, the UT Lady Vols consistently outdraw the men= s team, and the University of Connecticut women= s basketball team has as much attraction as the school= s men= s team
Other prominent female athletes include:
- Joan Benoit Samuelson who won a gold medal in 1984 in the first female marathon held for the Summer Olympics.
- Bonnie Blair, 5 time Olympic gold medalist in Women= s Speed Skating in three different Olympic games, also won one bronze medal.
- Jackie Joyner Kersee in four Olympic Games won six track medals, 3G, 1S, 2B
- Susan Butcher, a four time winner of the Anchorage to Nome Iditarod Sled Dog Race. Susan died of Leukemia in August of 2006.
ESPN= s ten great moments in Women= s Sports
1. Women= s Soccer Team wins World Cup (1999)
2. Richard Nixon signs Title IX into law, 1973
3. Billie Jean King wins A Battle of the Sexes@ over Bobby Riggs, 1973
4. Kerri Strug wins gold medal, Atlanta, 1996
5. UConn women go 35-0, 1995
6. The Williams sisters dominate US Open 2001
7. The Babe dominates AAU, 1932
8. USA Softball wins gold medal at Atlanta 1996
9. USA Olympic Ice Hockey team wins gold medal at 1998
10. Wilma Rudolph wins three gold medals in Rome, 1960
Sports Illustrated top American female athletes
1. Jackie Joyner-Kersee - T&F (1984-96 Olympics, 3 G, 1S, 2B in Heptathlon and Long Jumping
2. Babe Didrikson - T&F, Golf
3. Billie Jean King -Tennis
4. Chris Evert -Tennis
5. Bonnie Blair - Speed Skating
6. Wilma Rudolph - T&F (3G, 1B 1956-60 Olympics)
7. Tracy Caulkins - Swimming
8. Florence Griffith Joyner T&F (3 G 1S 1984-88 Olympics)
9. Mia Hamm - Soccer
10. Nancy Lopez - Golf
11. Cheryl Miller- Basketball at USC (Reggie= s sister)