Women and the Olympic Dream

The Continuing Struggle for Equality, 1896–2021


In stock

About the Book

On an April morning in 1896, unemployed single mother Stamata Revithi ran the 40 kilometers from Marathon to Athens, finishing in 5 hours 30 minutes. Barred from the first Olympic marathon, she was determined to prove herself. Through more than a century of Olympic Games history, women athletes—who were held back from swimming because long skirts were required, limited to running single-lap races because of fallacies about fragility, or forced to endure invasive gender exams—competed in spite of endless challenges. From Athens 1896 to Tokyo 2020, this history of women’s participation in the Olympic Games centers on athletes who overcame entrenched inequity to gain inclusion. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Maria Kaj is a blogger and the author of multiple books about the Olympic Games. She lives in northern California.

Bibliographic Details

Maria Kaj

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 306
Bibliographic Info: 49 photos, appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8647-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1

Part I—Gaining Entry
One. Refused Admission at the Dawn of the Modern Games (1896) 10
Two. Getting in the Game: The Pioneers (1900–1912) 26
Three. The Road from Alice to Amsterdam (1912–1928) 39

Part II—Taking Aim
Four. Let ’Er Fly: Babe Didrikson and Exceptionalism (1930–1932) 58
Five. Pariahs (1932–1936) 73
Six. The Cold War and the Feminine Mystique (1948–1968) 89
Seven. The Other Cold War: Winter Games (1924–1956) 108
Eight. Olympic Gigantism and the ­Zero-Sum Game (1924–1976) 120

Part III—Fighting for Access
Nine. Nationalism and the Rise of the Teams (1964–1976) 134
Ten. Not So Fast: The Tortuous Journey of Title IX (1972–2000) 145
Eleven. See How She Runs: Gender Politics and Racing (1948–1984) 157
Twelve. Them’s Fighting Words (1988–2012) 175

Part IV—Being Seen
Thirteen. The Camera Changes the Narrative: Gymnasts, Skaters, Racers, Villains (1972–2000) 194
Fourteen. Showing the World (1988–2016) 211
Fifteen. Erasing the Specter of Lesbianism (1896–2016) 227
Sixteen. Femininity Control (1936–…) 239

Afterthoughts: On Visibility 259
Further Reading 262
Appendix: Charts 263
Chapter Notes 269
Bibliography 287
Index 289

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Maria Kaj’s lively, engaging, and humorous writing style brings to life the richness of women’s Olympic history. With every stride, stroke, and shot women made history on sports’ global stage and Women and the Olympic Dream shines a much-needed light on their achievements. A must read for anyone interested in women’s important place in the Olympics’ past and its present.”—Dr. Rita Liberti, professor of Sport History, Department of Kinesiology, California State University, East Bay

• “Continuing struggle indeed: Maria Kaj gets us ready for athletic competition and then races us through the many decades and decisions that have followed female Olympians since they were ‘allowed’ to compete, recording their agonies and accomplishments in a free-ranging style that underscores the value of women’s sports.”—Linda K. Fuller, author of Female Olympians: A Mediated Socio-Cultural and Political-Economic Timeline

• “An absolutely fascinating and informative read bringing out of an underserved obscurity the story of women in sports overcoming discrimination…unreservedly recommended”—Midwest Book Reviews