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Woman of the Day: Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Posted by BrookeN at 2nd March, 2011

In 1950, who was named by the AP as the “Woman Athlete of the Half Century?”

Babe Didrikson Zaharias was a pioneer in women’s athletics for the first half of the 20th Century, creating a foundation for a second generation of women to equalize the playing field of sport.

As the dominant basketball player, track and field athlete and golfer of her time, Zaharias earned AAU All American honors, an Olympic gold medal in the 80 meter hurdles and the javelin, an Olympic silver medal in the high jump and won the first US Women’s Open.

A woman of Zaharias athletic stature and muscular physique was uncommon during the first half of the 20th Century, as female athletes had not gained greater acceptance from the public at large. Critics such as Joe Williams from the New York World-Telegram, denounced her lack of femininity in attitude and appearance, as he suggests, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.”

Despite not conforming to society’s cultural expectations of women at the time, Zaharias captivated others such as famed sportswriter, Grantland Rice, who encouraged her to take up golf. Impressed by her mental and physical fortitude Rice opines, “She is beyond all belief until you see her perform. Then you finally understand that you are looking at the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination, the world of sport has ever seen.”

To read more about Zaharias and the trail she paved for future women athletes, click here as well as here.

About BrookeN

Brooke Nepo has written 31 articles on this blog.

Brooke Nepo is a recent graduate of Binghamton University, where she majored in Philosophy, Politics and Law and competed as a collegiate Track and Field thrower. In addition to interning at the Woodhull Institute, she is a Personal Fitness Trainer and training to be a competitive Weightlifter.

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