Thursday, June 21, 2012


june 23rd is the 40th anniversary of title ix,
the equal opportunity in education act —
landmark legislation that helped even up
the playing field for american girls.

37 simple words —

no person in the united states shall, on the basis of sex,
be excluded from participation in,
be denied the benefits of, or
be subjected to discrimination under
any education program or activity
receiving federal financial assistance

that opened up a whole new world of opportunities
for girls across america, from athletics
[female participation has risen over 1,000%]
to science, technology, engineering & math. is featuring a section of its site
dedicated to this auspicious anniversary,
including an interesting article called
"nine before their time," profiling some
outstanding american women athletes who achieved their
impressive accomplishments long before title nine was around.

here are three whom i found particularly fascinating:

:: babe didrikson zaharias.
a fellow texan, babe was born mildred ella in port arthur in 1911.
she was an all-american basketball player,
a two-time olympic track & field gold medalist,
& a golf champion who won 82 tournaments &
helped found the lpga.

she also played organized baseball & softball,
was an expert diver, bowler & roller-skater,
a competitive pocket billiards player,
a recording singer & harmonica player,
& an excellent seamstress who sewed most of her own clothes.

babe was employed directly following high school
as a secretary for the employers casualty insurance company;
the firm really hired her for her athletic abilities —
they wanted her to lead their basketball team to victory,
which she did with the 1931 amateur athletic union championship.

representing her company at the 1932 aau championships,
babe was a team of one, competing on her own in eight of ten events.
she won five of the eight events & tied for a sixth,
meanwhile setting five world records in the javelin throw,
high jump, 80-meter hurdles & baseball throw, all in an afternoon.

babe won the championship for her firm single-handedly.

following her two gold & one silver medals won at the
1932 los angeles olympics, babe took up golf.
by 1950, she had won every golf title available —
including 17 straight women's amateur victories,
a record which still stands today.

babe didrikson zaharias died of colon cancer in 1956 at the age of 45.

:: conchita cintron.
"la diosa de oro," they called her. "the golden goddess,"
for her shining blonde hair. born in 1922, conchita grew up in lima, peru,
& debuted as a bullfighter at 13yo. at 17yo,
she was gored in the thigh & refused treatment until she
finished off her foe. which she did, then collapsed.

but the dramatic pinnacle of her career came in spain in 1949.
women there weren't permitted to fight the bull on foot;
they had to fight on horseback, then let a man finish off the foe.
conchita requested permission from the spanish president to dismount;
he denied her. so she seized her male replacement's sword,
marched into the ring, & as the charging bull approached,
she flung the sword aside & simply grazed the animal's
shoulders with her fingers. she was arrested [& later pardoned],
but the crowd loved her.

she fought only once more, retiring from bullfighting at 27yo.
she spent the remainder of her life writing her memoirs,
serving as the portuguese correspondent for several
latin-american newspapers, & successfully breeding portuguese pointers.
conchita cintron died of a heart attack in 2009 at the age of 86.

:: althea gibson.
known as "the jackie robinson of tennis," althea gibson
broke the sport's color barrier, beginning with her historic debut
at the 1950 u.s. championships. she went on to become
the first black player to compete — & eventually, win — at
wimbledon, to win the french open & to become the u.s. national champ.

between 1956 & 1958, althea won five grand slam events.
she retired from tennis with 56 career victories,
only to go on to break the color barrier in golf.
in 1964, althea debuted with the lpga & played on the tour
until 1971. in retirement, althea penned her autobiography,
dabbled in singing & acting, & worked in several public-service positions.
althea gibson died of circulatory collapse in 2003 at the age of 76.

1 comment:

Jen said...

I loved learning about these courageous women. Thank you for bringing their inspiring stories to light.