Female firsts in sports history: women’s day post

Author 22
Lorraine Moalosi
female firsts in sports history

Today is International Women’s day! Woohoo! And what better way to celebrate it than looking back at female firsts in sports history!

Although the women’s sports industry has made great progress over the last few years, we all know that this hasn’t happened at the most ideal rate. The progress has been rather slow and this is by no fault of the women themselves of course. But today, let’s take a different tone. Let’s celebrate the good that has happened by giving a standing ovation to all women in sports. 

The list of incredible female firsts below, is not exhaustive at all. We curated this one to highlight female athletes from different backgrounds, times, and eras. 

So without further ado…

Before we dive right in...

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    Women holding a laptop next to a orange robot

    Here are 10 incredible female firsts in sports history

    White number one inside of an orange circle

    Louise Stokes and Tidye Pickett

    These two incredible women were the first African American women to qualify for the Olympics in 1932. However, because of their race, they were not allowed to compete. They are worth mentioning in this list because their example has paved the way for more African American female athletes to rise. Having to endure double discrimination due to both their race and gender, daring to even compete was a great achievement, in and of itself.

    White number two inside of an orange circle

    Babe Didrikson Zaharias

    The year 1938 saw Zaharias become the first female to compete in the PGA  (Professional Golfer’s of America) Tour in the Los Angeles Open (now known as Genesis Open). By 1945, she had participated in three more PGA Tour events, missing the second cut of the first of them, and making the cut of the other two. As of 2018, she remained the only woman to have achieved this. Zaharias is widely regarded as one of the greatest female athletes of all time.

    White number three inside of an orange circle

    Toni Stone

    This incredible woman was the first of three women to play professional baseball full-time for the Indianapolis Clowns in the 40s. This also made her the first woman to play as a regular on an American big-league professional baseball team. It has been widely reported that during an exhibition game in 1953, she hit a single off a fastball pitch delivered by legendary player Satchel Paige, although this is also disputed. Although Stone felt like she was one of the boys, the people around her didn’t. She was taunted for being a woman a lot during her career.

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    White number four inside of an orange circle

    Bobbi Gibb

    In 1966, Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to run the entirety of the Boston marathon. She ran it unregistered after being refused registry. During that time, women were not allowed to run such long races. So, although Bobbi is not officially the first woman to have run the Boston Marathon, she did pave the way for this next woman…

    White number five inside of an orange circle

    Kathryn Switzer

    In 1967, Switzer became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as an officially registered competitor. She was physically attacked during the race by a man who was against women running these kinds of races. But despite the challenges thrown at her, she eventually managed to finish the race thanks, in part, to the intervention of her fellow runners, one of which happened to be her boyfriend.

    White number 6 inside an orange circle

    Junko Tabei

    Up next on our list of female firsts in sports history is Junko Tabei. Tabei was the first woman to summit Mount Everest in 1975. She was also the first woman to ascend the Seven Summits, that is, she climbed the highest peaks in every continent.

    A orange circle with the number 7 in white

    Debi Thomas

    Meet the first black woman to take home a medal at the Winter Olympics. Thomas won the U.S. figure skating singles championship in 1986 and then 2 years later, took home a bronze medal at Calgary 1988. Then, in February 1989, Thomas ranked 12th in the Q Score athlete standings, the only woman in the top 22. Not only that but Thomas would later become a practicing orthopedic surgeon specializing in hip and knee replacement. Wow! 

    A orange circle with the number 8 in white

    Derartu Tulu

    In 1992, Ethiopian Derartu Tulu became Africa’s first female Olympic gold medalist after winning the 10 000m final in Barcelona. In 2000, she won the gold again, becoming the only woman to have done this in the event’s short history. She then transitioned to running marathons, her accomplishments include winning the Portugal and New York Marathons. Today, Tulu currently serves as the president of the Ethiopian Athletics Federation.

    A orange circle with the number 9 in white

    Jenny Higgs

    Next up on our list of female firsts in sports history is Jenny Higgs. She was the first female chief umpire at Wimbledon since the All England Club’s first tournament in 1877. This incredible woman started umpiring at just 17 years old.

    A orange circle with the number 10 in white

    Deepa Malik

    Last but certainly not least is the incredible Deepa Malik – the first Indian woman to win a silver in shot put F53 in the 2016 Rio Paralympics on Sept 12, 2016. She also won gold in the F-53/54 Javelin event at the para athletic Grand Prix held in Dubai in 2018 and is currently world number 1 in the F53 category. She is also the first disabled individual in India to receive an official rally license from the Federation Motor Sports Club of India (FMSCI) and become a navigator and driver in the toughest car rallies of the country – Raid De Himalaya 2009 and Desert Storm 2010.

    Happy Women’s day!

    How incredible are these women? 

    We know that there are many more such women in sports in your day-to-day life who maybe don’t get the same recognition. So why not help us celebrate them as well?

    We have launched an initiative called Women in Sports: Beyond the Hashtag that seeks to help women in sports and women’s sports organizations increase their visibility. Visibility has been shown to be a big contributing factor to women having lower sponsorship deals and less revenue, among other things. So that’s why we want to make a difference by helping improve the visibility of women in sports.

    So, to help us celebrate these women, why not share our initiative with them? 

    female firsts in sports history

    Simply, click on this link and then send it to the women in sports that you know >>

    Happy International Women’s day to you all.

    Women Celebrating Data Talks

    And to all women who are not in sports, we salute you and celebrate you too. 

    Happy International Women’s day.

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