FIRST WOMEN OF COLOR AT THE OLYMPICS

SIMONE MANUEL

Simone Manuel is the First African American Woman to win an individual gold medal in swimming. Her time in the 2016 Olympics of 52.70 seconds set both an American and Olympic record. An amazing feat for a woman who belongs to the meager 1.3% of African Americans who are members of USA Swimming. Manuel is majoring in science, technology and society.

There were other African-American Women who medaled at the Olympics before Simone Manuel and Simone Biles, the gymnast who will carry the U.S. flag at the closing ceremonies. Some of the more famous are:

ALICE COACHMAN–Alice Coachman was the first woman of color to be a member of the U.S. track and field team. She became the First African-American Woman to win an Olympic gold medal in 1948. Her medal in the high jump was the only gold medal for the U.S. Team that year.

WILMA RUDOLPH

 

–Wilma Rudolph was the First American Woman to win three track and field gold medals at the Olympics. A sickly child who wore a brace on her leg as a child, she medaled in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome.

 

VONETTA FLOWERS–Vonetta Flowers was the first black athlete, male or female, to win a gold medal at the Winter Olympics. She started her athletic career as a sprinter and long jumper but switched to bobsledding in the 2002 Olympics. She and Jill Bakken won in the first year this event was included in the Olympics for women. (Men had been competing in the bobsled in the Olympics for 70 years by then).

 

DOMINIQUE DAWES–In 1996 Dominique Dawes was the First Black Person of any nationality or gender to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She was also the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic medal in artistic gymnastics. During this year’s Olympics she introduced a trailer for an upcoming movie, “Hidden Figures,” which is about three African American women mathematicians who provided critical assistance to John Glenn’s first flight.

Olympic Women with Multiple Firsts

For every sport and every event in the Olympics, there is a First Woman who won a medal in a sport when women were permitted to compete. Their names would fill a ledger book. The women featured here hold more than one first (although not all in the Olympics):

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 5.00.37 PM–Aileen Riggin swam in the 1920 and 1924 Olympic games. She won a gold medal at the 1920 Antwerp games, the youngest American to win Olympic gold. She was the first woman to medal in both swimming and diving. She was still swimming at 85 when she competed in the world masters championships—and broke six world records in her age group.

–Martha Norelius was the First Woman to win successive Olympic gold medals, in 1924 and 1928. She beat out Gertrude Ederle, the First Woman to swim the English Channel.

–Connie Carpenter-Phinney was the First Woman to compete in the winter and summer Olympics. She competed in speed skating in 1972 and still holds the record as the youngest competitor in the Winter Olympics. She won a gold medal in the cycling road race in 1984.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 5.06.19 PM–Deborah “Debbie” Meyer was the First Woman to win three individual Olympic gold medals—in the 200-, 400, and 800- meter freestyle swimming races.

–Bonnie Blair was an Olympic speed skater. She won a gold medal in 1988 and two golds in 1992, the First Woman to medal in two consecutive Winter Olympic games.

–Joan Benoit was the First Woman to win a marathon at the Olympics. This did not happen until 1984 because women were not allowed to run a marathon until then. She had previously won the Boston Marathon and set a record that held for 11 years.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 5.03.20 PM–Maria Gorohkovskaya of the Soviet Union was the First Woman to win a gold medal in women’s gymnastics when the sport was added to the Olympics in 1952. It was not until 1984 that an American woman won the gold. Mary Lou Retton went on to have her face featured on a Wheaties box. Wheaties had been putting athletes on its cereal boxes since 1934, but Mary Lou Retton was the First Woman.

First Women in the Olympics: Part One – A Short History

 

If you read the Olympic websites, you would believe that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) is thoroughly committed to the equality of women in sports. However, this commitment is relatively new. It was not until 2012, just four years ago, that every country participating in the Olympics had women athletes. This was the same year that women competed, for the first time, in all sports.

MARGARET ABBOTT        When the Olympics were revived in 1890, women were prohibited from participation. That changed in 1900 when women competed in the Paris games. The First American Woman (and second woman internationally) to win a gold medal was Margaret Abbott, a golfer who was studying art in Paris at the time. Her mother, Mary Perkins Ives Abbott also competed in the event, making this the first—and last—time a mother and daughter competed in the Olympics.

Margaret Abbott and her mother were among the 22 women competing in Paris, out of the full contingent of 997 athletes. Women competed in five sports: croquet, tennis, golf, sailing, and equestrianism. In 1924 women reached 136 in numbers. However, by this time, there were 2,954 men participating, so their percentage increased only marginally. That same year, in the Olympic 100-meter backstroke, Sybil Bauer broke a swimming world record that had been held previously by a man.

BETTY ROBINSON       Four years later Elizabeth “Betty” Robinson Schwartz was awarded the first Olympic gold medal for a woman in track and field. In 1931, she was in a plane crash. Believing she was dead, she was taken to the morgue and found to be in a coma. Her recovery was slow as she struggled to walk normally and finally to run. Although she could not bend over into the starting position for a race, she competed on the American women’s relay team in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The Americans beat Hitler’s Germans and won the gold.

It was not until 1981, one hundred and one years after the Olympics were revived, that women served as board members on the IOC. Was it a coincidence that women were allowed to compete in the marathon at the Olympics shortly after, in 1984? Joan Benoit, who had set a Boston Marathon record that lasted for 28 years, won the gold.

Five years later, in 1986, Anita DeFrantz, a former U.S. rowing team captain, became the First African American Woman to serve on the IOC. Was it any coincidence that five years after, in 1991, the IOC decided that any new sport added to the Olympics must include both men’s and women’s events?

SARAH HENDRICKSON        Even this change, however had some limits. Although women could compete in every sport, they could not necessarily compete in every event. As late as 2006 the International Ski Federation petitioned the IOC to allow women to ski jump in the Olympics. It took two more winter Olympics, and eight years, before the IOC agreed. In 2014 Sarah Hendrickson was the First Woman ever to ski jump at the Olympics. In 2016 women will earn 44% of all medals awarded.

Hillary Clinton Owes a Debt to the Women who Went before Her

HILLARY FOR HILLARY       Hillary Clinton is the First Woman ever nominated by a major political party to run for President of the United States. She has established her credentials, campaigned vigorously, and won the title. She is not, however, the first woman to run for President and there are many women who paved the way before her. It is time to take a moment and give those women credit.

The First Woman to declare she would run for President, in the April 2, 1870 issue of the New York Herald, was Victoria Claflin Woodhull who ran for a place on the Equal Rights Party ticket. This was particularly surprising because women did not earn the right to vote until August 18, 1920. It turns out Woodhull was not qualified to run for President, not because of her gender, but because of her age. She was only 34 years old, one year younger than mandated by the constitution.

Less than a decade later Belva Lockwood ran for President with the National Women’s Equal Rights Party. “I cannot vote,” she said, “but I can be voted for.” She received 4,711 votes in nine states.

Many of the women who ran for President or Vice-President were nominated by minority parties (e.g., the National Equal Rights Party, the Peace Party, and the Communist Party). Blocked from power by the national parties, they followed their own paths. Even this year Jill Stein is running for President on the Green Party ticket. The Republican National Convention in 1900 was the first time a woman, Frances Warren of Wyoming, even served as a delegate for a major party.

After the nineteenth amendment, there were some changes, but at a pace suited to a snail. In 1924, Lena Springs, after chairing the credentials committee for the Democratic National Convention, received some votes for the position of U.S. Vice-President. That same year Suffragette Marie Caroline Brehm was the first legally qualified female candidate to run for the vice-presidency of the United States, on the Prohibition Party ticket with Herman P. Faris.

As women asserted themselves more into the political process, there were a number of courageous women who ran for President. Among them were:

–Margaret Chase Smith (1964) – She received votes from only 27 delegates at the 1964 Republican convention, but was the First Woman nominated for President by a major party.

–Shirley Chisholm (1972) – The First African American Woman elected to Congress was also the First African American Woman to run for a major party presidential nomination. She appeared on primary ballots in 12 states.

–Ellen McCormack (1976) – She appeared on the primary ballot in only 18 states but garnered more votes than Frank Church or Hubert Humphrey. (Jimmy Carter was nominated.)

–Sonia Johnson (1984) – She was a minor party candidate but was the first third-party candidate to qualify for federal primary matching funds.

–Pat Schroeder (1987) – When Gary Hart’s campaign fell apart, she stepped into the Democratic race, but was not organized well enough to succeed. She is best known for the fact that she cried when she withdrew, interpreted as a sign of her unsuitability for the position. (When did anyone ever mention John Boehner’s bawling?)

–Lenora Fulani (1988) – Running for the New Alliance Party, she was the first African American Woman to be on the ballot in all fifty states.

–Elizabeth Dole (2000) – Elizabeth Dole, like Clinton, served in Cabinet posts and was the wife of a former presidential candidate when she campaigned for President.

–Michele Bachman (2012) – She won the Iowa straw poll for the Republican Party caucuses.

In 1984 two women ran for President of the United States and ten women ran for Vice-President of the United States, but only one, Geraldine Ferraro, won a position on the national ballot from a major political party. The Democrats nominated her to run as Vice-President with Walter Mondale; they were heavily defeated by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. In 2008 the Republican Party nominated Sarah Palin to run as Vice-President with John McCain; they lost to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

And now a woman heads the ticket, heading for the glass ceiling, standing on the shoulders of all the women who tried before her.

Martha Rountree, First Woman Moderator of “Meet the Press”

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 4.59.05 PMChuck Todd is currently moderator of “Meet the Press” on NBC, a one-on-one interview show sometimes followed by a roundtable. Todd follows many notable news correspondents: Roger Mudd, Marvin Kalb, Chris Wallace, Garrick Utley, Tim Russert, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, and Martha Rountree. Wait, Martha Rountree? There has been a woman moderator?

In fact, Martha Rountree was the first moderator of “Meet the Press” in 1947. It was the first show where interviews were not rehearsed. She filled the position for six years. Not only was Rountree the moderator she was also “a” or “the” creator—depending on which source you check. Supposedly, Rountree and Lawrence E. Spivak introduced the show on radio in 1945 then on television two years later. Some say Spivak came to the party later and, although he was co-producer and business partner, Rountree generated the concept on her own.

The first guest was James Farley, Postmaster General and campaign manager for Franklin Delano Roosevelt during his first two terms. Every President since John F. Kennedy has been interviewed on the show, although not always during his presidency. The first woman guest was Elizabeth Bentley, an American who spied for the Soviet Union then defected and provided information on Soviet spies to the U.S. Government. Even then a woman had a better chance of getting noticed if she was notorious.

Since history is written by the male survivors, we may never know the truth about whether Martha Rountree developed the show, but she was the first moderater, even though she was a woman and it was 1947. She set the tone for the program and its future. It is the longest-running program in television history.