10 Breathtaking Photos Of Women Athletes — Before Title IX
1:15 pm, June 22nd | by
As we’re sure you’re well-aware, this Saturday is the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark law that (among other things)
created equal opportunities for women in sports. And what better way to celebrate this occasion than rooting through the Library of Congress photo archives and picking out some breathtaking moments in women’s pre-Title IX sports history?
We’ll go ahead and consider these images — ranging from 1910 to 1961 — a visual history of women’s pioneering efforts in sports. We have them (and, sure, lots of other people) to thank for paving the way. Some of these women are famous, others not so much. But we think they’re all worth recognizing.
Aileen Riggin Soule -- An Olympic diver and swimmer, Aileen Riggin Soule won her first gold medal during the 1920 games in Antwerp, Belgium. At the time, she was the youngest-ever gold medal winner at
14-years-old, 4'7" and just 65 pounds. Here she is in 1922, diving at the Huguenot Boat Club in New Rochelle, N.Y. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-113425)
Althea Gibson -- Known to many as the
"female Jackie Robinson," Althea Gibson was a phenomenon -- and the number-one ranked U.S. women's tennis player in 1957 and 1958. She broke huge racial barriers in sports, becoming the first African-American to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. And after she was done with tennis, Gibson took up pro golf, becoming the first African-American woman aboard the LPGA. She was inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame in 1971. Here, Gibson is pictured playing in Forest Hills, N.Y. in 1957. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-115789)
3.Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Babe Didrikson Zaharias -- She played everything. Like, literally, every sport you can think of she was good at. An Olympic track athlete (she won two golds in 1932), Babe Didrikson Zaharias was so renowned for her athletic prowess that when a reporter
asked her if there was anything she didn't play, she quipped, "Yeah, dolls." Bad. Ass. After retiring from track and field, she went on to become a wildly successful golfer. Here she is playing basketball (she was an All-American in that, by the way) in 1946. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-113277)
Baseball -- Here's a co-ed baseball game in Madison, N.J., in 1910. Not sure why, but this one makes me giggle a little. Looks just like you and your friends, right? Sliding in a million pounds of tulle, no biggie. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-18472)
Katherine Harley -- Former champion golf champion of the U.S., after winning the Amateur Golf Championship of the U.S. Golf Association in 1908, at the Chevy Chase Club in Chevy Chase, Maryland. She was dethroned during the championship the following year, in what a 1909
story described as a "poorly played match." Ouch. No matter, she bounced back and won the championship again in 1914. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-19494) New York Times
Trap-Shooting -- Here's Miss M.V. Lannan in her full trap-shooting regalia in 1914. Her expression is a mixture of awesome and terrifying. Love it. Miss Lannan's got a gun. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ppmsca-31935)
Roller Derby -- A group of unidentified women compete in the women's league roller derby in 1950. Although it's not entirely clear where this photo was taken, Library of Congress information says it was shot by a
New York World-Telegram photographer. Look at her face! (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-133382)
8.Tennis In Prague
Tennis Demonstration In Prague -- This image is believed to be from the a 1912 gymnastic festival in Prague, Austria. I'd say our forehand has improved in the last century. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-DIG-ggbain-11568)
Wilma Rudolph -- The first woman to win three medals in a single Olympics, Wilma Rudolph was dubbed
"The Tornado" after her track and field performance during the 1960 Rome Olympics. Even more amazingly, Rudolph suffered from Polio as a child and, according to the Examiner, " surprised everyone when she removed her braces and walked across the room five years after her diagnosis. Here she is completing a 50-yard dash in 1961 at Madison Square Garden. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-115646)
Penny Banner and LeeChona La Claire -- This shot from 1955 shows Penny Banner and LeeChona La Claire competing in the first-ever (legal) women's wrestling match. (LeClaire is the one being held in a leg-lock.) Banner went on to serve as the commissioner of the Professional Girl Wrestling Association. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-128082)
All images courtesy of Library of Congress. See individual reproduction numbers with images.