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Ten Women’s Sports and Health Pioneers You Should Know

This Women’s History Month, celebrate the accomplishments of these ten women’s sports and health pioneers
Rebecca Lee Crumpler, M.D.
First African American woman to become a physician

crumplerAfter earning her degree, Crumpler worked primarily with former slaves who could not receive medical attention elsewhere. She was as much a missionary as she was a doctor, and the impressive span of her career is expressed best by the 1883 publication of her Book of Medical Discourse, the first of its kind written by a black American.

Cynisca, Princess of Sparta
First woman to win at the Ancient Olympic Games

women’s history monthAn active participant in the all-female athletics of the Heraean Games, Cynisca went on to break the laws that barred women from competing in the Olympics. She did more than dare to compete: she won. By employing her own team, Cynisca was able to enter her chariot and dominate the equestrian events. Her cleverness brought her two wins, and set a standard for women breaking barriers in athletics.

Roberta “Bobbi” Gibb
First woman to run the Boston Marathon

women’s history montGibb made history in 1966 as the first woman to run the Boston Marathon. After being thwarted at registration, she ran unofficially by sneaking into the race from the sidelines, masking her gender with a hoodie. Her time was 3 hours 21 minutes 40 seconds, 126th among the 500 runners.

GibsonAlthea Gibson
Excelled in tennis and golf

1n 1956, Gibson was the first African American to win the French open, going on to win Winbledon and the U.S. open the following year and ultimately claiming 56 doubles and singles titles. She was also the first African American to be named Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press in 1957 and to play in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

Alice Hamilton, M.D.
women’s history monthFirst woman appointed to Harvard faculty

As an early environmentalist, Hamilton was among the first to study the correlation between pollution and its effect on the body. She extensively studied workplace injuries and other elements of industrial medicine while a member and resident of Jane Adam’s Hull House. Serving as an assistant professor at Harvard from 1919 onward, she continued to make advancements in toxicology still innovative today.

women’s history monthKinue Hitomi
First female Japanese Olympian

In 1928, track athlete Kinue Hitomi became the first woman from the Asian continent to participate in the Olympic Games. Lifelong athlete and all around badass, Hitomi was breaking the mold in standard track & field long before she turned pro. At Amsterdam she took the silver, her time beating the outstanding world record by nearly two seconds, a record that remained unsurpassed in Asia for more than two decades.

Renee Richards
Transgendered trailblazer

renee-richardsIn 1975, Tennis pro Richards underwent sex reassignment surgery. The United States Tennis Association, citing an unprecedented “women-born-women” policy, denied her entry into the 1976 US Open. She disputed the ban, and in 1977 the New York Supreme Court ruled in her favor in a landmark decision for transgendered rights. Her first professional event as a female was the 1977 US Open where she reached the doubles final in 1977, and won the 35-and-over women’s singles.

1960 Olympic GamesWilma Rudolph
Civil Rights Activist and Track and Field “Hurricane.”

In the 1960s Summer Olympic in Rome, Wilma Rudolph became the first American women to win three gold medals in a single Olympics, earning her the nickname, “The Hurricane.” In the 1960s she was widely regarded as the fastest woman in history. After her Olympics triumph, Rudolph returned home to Clarksville, Tennessee where, at the athlete’s request, her homecoming festivities were the first fully integrated events in the city’s history.

Margaret Sanger
Mother of contraception, founder of American Birth Control League

women’s history monthSanger believed that one way to relieve women of poverty and oppression was to stress reproductive rights. With the aim to provide safe, legal abortions and reliable contraception, Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which in her lifetime developed into the Planned Parenthood Federation. A committed champion of women’s rights all her life, she’s now credited with being the mother of modern contraceptives.

Babe Zaharias
Complete stud

2-babe-didrikson-zaharias-grangerZaharias competed in basketball, track, golf, baseball, tennis, swimming, diving, boxing, volleyball, handball, bowling, billiards, skating and cycling, ending her career as a brilliant golfer. When asked if there was anything she didn’t play, she said, “Yeah, dolls.” Less than two years after seeing her first track meet, she qualified in five track events for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, winning two gold medals and one silver. She went on to become a pro golfer and founding member of the LGPA.