Happy International Women’s Day! Let’s all ‘choose to challenge’.
Today, 8th March is International Women’s Day, a chance for us to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This year’s theme is ‘Choose to challenge.’ We are grateful for the amazing women in history who decided to do exactly this and have helped to shape our sport today. So, we’re taking a very brief look at some inspirational women in sports we know and love:
Alfonsina Strada – the first woman to cycle in the Giro d’italia in 1924. She finished the 21 day long grueling race through some of the steepest mountains in Europe. She rode the race on a single-geared bike. Only 30 riders finished and she was one of them, winning 50,000 lire for her efforts and proving that women can survive in a man’s race! She also broke several cycling records during her cycling career:
In 1911 she broke the women’s speed record set six years earlier by Louise Roger. She clocked 37 km/h on a 44-pound single-geared bike.
In 1938 she set the female world record for the hour, covering 32.58 km at Longchamp, Paris. (a record beaten in 1955 by Tamara Novikova of the Soviet Union)
For Alfonsia her love of cycling never diminished, she went on to own a cycling shop and continue to pass her love of the sport onto others.
Annette Kellerman – changed what women wear whilst swimming.
Annette Kellerman was born in 1886, a time when women were expected to wear stockings and cover their legs on the beach. As a child Annette had to wear steel braces for support on her legs, her parents encouraged her to swim to strengthen them.
Annette was a natural swimmer and began her competitive career at age 16 in 1902. She set records while winning the ladies’ 100-yard and mile championships of New South Wales. In addition to competitive swimming, she gave swimming and diving demonstrations.
She challenged the expectations of what women should wear whilst swimming by creating and appearing in a one-piece fitted suit on Revere Beach in Boston, Massachusetts. The suit showed her arms and legs and got her arrested for indecency.
The Kellerman bathing suit is credited as a … ‘symbol and fact of a new freedom for women.’ She designed and manufactured the Kellerman bathing suit to a wide market. She felt its acceptance was her greatest achievement as it celebrated the natural form of women and made a statement that the “unadorned body was beautiful in itself, to be boldly displayed and admired.” (Australia.gov.au)
Kathrine Switzer – the first female to run the Boston Marathon. Kathrine trained hard for her first marathon but was not sure as she approached the start line in 1967 whether she would be allowed to start, let alone if she had the ability to finish. She entered under the gender-ambiguous name K.V.Switzer. However, on the day itself she didn’t try to hide her identity insisting on wearing lipstick to the start line. Her race was to become more eventful than she had ever imagined as a race manager tried to forcibly take her bib from her back. Despite the race’s drama she crossed the finishing line in a very respectable 4hours and 20 minutes, and people began to rethink, “Well, I’ll be damned. Women can go the distance.” It wasn’t until 1972 (5 years later) that another female was legally allowed — and invited — to run the famous New England course. Kathrine Switzer was by this time already well on her way to becoming a sports icon, front-page feminist, and, eventually, a first-place finisher at the New York City Marathon in 1974.
These three remarkable women have influenced and changed our sports today, by choosing to challenge. Many, many others have also paved the way for sporting gender equality – but the facts still speak for themselves, there’s still work to be done:
● 70% of sports now offer the same amount of prize money for men and women. But in the 30% that don’t, the difference runs into the millions.
● 0.4% of the total commercial investment in sport goes into women’s sport.
Here in the UK: there are 313,600 fewer women than men who are regularly active.
More men do sport and physical activity than women at almost every age group. 4 in 10 women are not active enough to ensure they get the full health benefits.
‘Choose to challenge’
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