Women Athletes

What do you think of when you think of women in sports? Or perhaps, I should ask: who do you think of?

Of course there are the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. And the Seattle Storm and Minnesota Lynx basketball teams. And…gosh, I almost forgot…the beach babes who play volleyball! Do not criticize my vocabulary! When I searched the computer for “women’s professional volleyball”, all I got were photos of bikini-clad women. A similar search for “men’s pro teams” produced loads of photos of men in modest knee-length shorts and t-shirts.

My original question was to identify women sportscasters. I found a list of the top ten or twenty — complete with photos of smiling faces framed with curly blond hair, barely visible atop half-exposed breasts. The clincher were the profiles. Almost every one had been a cheerleader for a men’s pro team.

Still, names of famous women in sports continue to show up. Women like Billie Jean King who trounced an audacious outspoken Bobby Riggs in a widely heralded tennis match. Or the talented Sonja Henie who dressed up movies in the 1930s with her exquisite dimpled smile; hardly anyone realizes Ms. Henie was an three-time Olympic champion, winning three gold medals before becoming a movie star.

Or the great-great Mildred Ella “Babe” Didrickson Zaharias, voted the outstanding woman athlete of the 20th century. She was an all-around champion in golf, track and field, baseball, basketball, and anything she took a hand to. While playing baseball with her brothers in the 1920s, she hit five home runs in one game. In the 1930s, she pitched an inning for the St. Louis Cardinals in an exhibition game with the Philadelphia Athletics. She broke world track records in Olympic competition, and in 1949 co-founded the Ladies Professional Golf Association with Patty Berg.

These are just three of the women on whose shoulders Serena and Venus stand. Other shoulders include those of Gertrude Ederle, Fay Fuller, Helen Wills Moody, Althea Gibson, Tenley Albright, Wilma Rudolph, Diane Crump, Mary Decker, Janet Guthrie, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Debi Thomas, Martina Navratilova, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Lizzie Murphy, and Jackie Mitchell… and oh-so-many more. These are the women who cleared the way for today’s women to excel in all fields of sports.

I just published a book titled Pandora’s Hunnert Januarys: Watching 20th Century Women Fly Out of the Box, which includes many women “firsts” and record-setters — women who discovered their skills and shared them. The story of Pandora Whaley’s fictional life is told by the decade, a fiction/nonfiction account of the status of women throughout the last century. The book includes actual accomplishments of more than 500 real women — from athletes, writers, and artists to generals and senators.

Oh, you didn’t recognize Lizzie Murphy and Jackie Mitchell? They played professional baseball with all-male minor league teams in the late ’20s and ’30s — one a  crackerjack at first base and one  a 17-year-old pitcher who struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game in 1931. These two women alone make great stories.

About Val Dumond

VAL DUMOND is a writer who is enamored with words and putting them together to tell stories. Trained as a journalist, she also managed an advertising agency and public relations business. She has taught writing classes for many years and now focuses on her own writing, editing for other writers, and helping writers publish their books. She owns Muddy Puddle Press, where most of her books are published. Her favorite writing theme is historical fiction: She has done what-ifs for Klondike Kate — Queen of the Yukon, and the unlucky pilot who in 1933 tried and failed to be the first to fly solo across the Pacific. She also did a what-if about the status of women at a bank where she once was overworked and underpaid. (Kate received a new love interest at the age of 70; the pilot received a second chance at his heart's desire 50 years later; and the women of the bank rebelled enough to improve their wages and place women on the Board of Directors.) See: SUGAR, SPICE, AND STONE; WHEN ROOSTERS FLY; and A LITTLE REBELLION…. But Val's grammar books are the ones that draw attention. Her latest, AMERICAN-ENGLISH—The Official Guide (written for writers), is a culmination of five other books about language she has written. This new book urges writers to develop their own writing style by creating their own Style Manual, composed of preferences among the many choices that American-English provides. In it, she uses examples of uses for the various parts of language and punctuation, sets aside a section that's full of writing tips, includes a glossary and index for easy access to language solutions.
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