Significant Events in Women's Sports History
Pre-Title IX History

1. The first known women's golf tournament is held at the Musselburgh Golf Club in Scotland among the local fishwives. (January 9, 1811)

2. Twelve women from Smith College form the first intercollegiate women's tennis club. (June 6, 1881)

3. A woman (probably named Stamata Revithi runs the marathon course unofficially a few weeks prior to and/or the day after the marathon at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens. (1896)

4. The first women's intercollegiate basketball game is held between the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University. Male spectators are barred. (April 4, 1896)

5. Lizzie Arlington becomes the first woman to sign a contract with a minor league baseball team. (1898)

6. Nineteen women debut as the first competitors at the Paris Olympic Games. Charlotte Cooper becomes the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal. (1900)

7. Anna Edson Taylor becomes the first woman to survive going over Niagara Falls alone in a barrel. She was inspired to make the attempt for a cash reward to put toward a loan that was due on her Texas ranch. (October 24, 1901)

8. Introduced into the United States by England's Constance Applebee, field hockey quickly becomes the most popular outdoor team sport of young American women. (1901)

9. Bertha Kapernick is the first woman to ride a bronco at the nation's top rodeo, Frontier Days, in Cheyenne, Wyoming. (1904)

10. First women's bowling leagues are started in St. Louis, Missouri. (1907)

11. The first women's international ski race is held in Chamonix, France. (1908)

12. At age 58, Annie Smith Peck becomes the first person to climb the north peak of Mount Huascaran (Peru), altitude 21,812 feet, the highest altitude ever reached in the Western Hemisphere. (1908)

13. Thirty-six women compete at the Olympic Games in gymnastics, tennis, archery and figure skating. (1908)

14. Twelve women compete in the first women-only auto race. (January 12, 1909)

15. Jane Aspinwall leaves San Francisco on the way to becoming the first woman to ride cross-country by horse. She arrived in Manhattan 301 days later (108 of them actual traveling days). (September 1, 1910)

16. Long distance swimmer Annette Kellerman is arrested for exposing her legs while swimming in Boston Harbor in an indecent one-piece bathing suit. (1910)

17. Women are first allowed to swim in the Olympic Games. Australian Fanny Durack - wearing a long woolen swimsuit with a skirt - wins the 100m freestyle to become the first female champion in the Games; impressively, her time was the same as the men's winner. (1912)

18. Theresa Weld becomes America's first national champion in figure skating. (1914)

19. The Women's International Bowling Congress becomes the first national sport organization formed specifically for promoting women's sports. (1916)

20. Sisters Adeline and Augusta Van Buren become the first women to cross the continental United States on motorcycles. It takes them 60 days to travel from Brooklyn, New York to San Francisco, California. (September 2, 1916)

21. Annie Oakley, sharpshooter and former star of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, tours World War I Army camps, giving shooting lessons to the soldiers. (1917)

22. Suzanne Lenglen makes her triumphant debut at Wimbledon. She wins the first of her six singles championships and makes a shocking fashion statement in her calf-length, one-piece dress that exposes her arms and allows her to be aggressive in her play. (1919)

23. Jeux Feminins, the first all-women Olympics, is held in Monaco. Three hundred women from five countries compete in many sports not permitted in the Olympic Games such as track and field and basketball. They are so successful that they are held again in 1922 and 1923. (1921)

24. Bessie Coleman is the first African-American, male or female, to earn a pilot's license. All of her applications to aviation school in the United States are rejected, so she travels to France for training
and certification. (June 15, 1921)

25. The Olympic Winter Games debut in Chamonix, France, with events for women in figure skating (individual and pairs). (1924)

26. Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim the English Channel. Her time of 14 hours and 31 minutes breaks the men's record. (1926)

27. Track and field for women makes its debut at the Amsterdam Olympic Games. When several women reportedly collapse at the conclusion of the 800-meter race, officials seize on the reports as a pretext for banning women from running any distance greater than 200 meters in Olympic competition till 1960. (1928)

28. Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias is the first woman to win medals in three Olympic events - two gold and one silver. She is denied the third gold when she goes over the high jump bar head first - a technique barred by rules at the time. (1932)

29. Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. (1932)

30. Swimmer Hideko Maehata of Japan becomes the first woman of color to win a gold medal in the Olympic Games. (1936)

31. Sonja Henie, becomes the first (and as of 1999, the only) woman ever to win three Olympic gold medals in individual figure skating competition. (1936)

32. Tennis champion Helen Wills Moody wins a record eighth ladies' singles title at Wimbledon. (1938)

33. The All American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed. At its peak in 1948, it consisted of 10 teams and drew nearly a million fans. (1943)

34. Alice Coachman becomes the first African-American to win an Olympic gold medal. (1948)

35. Larissa Latynina of Russia wins the first of her 18 Olympic medals at the Melbourne Olympic Games. (1952)

36. Althea Gibson becomes the first woman of color tennis player to win Wimbledon and Forest Hills. (1957)

37. Wilma Rudolph overcomes childhood polio to capture three Olympic gold medals at the Rome Olympic Games and the title of fastest woman in the world. She inspires generations of girls and women to participate in track and field. (1960)

38. Volleyball is introduced as the first team sport for women in the Olympic Games. (October 23, 1964)

39. Kathryn Switzer becomes the first woman to officially enter the Boston Marathon when she registers as K. Switzer. When officials see that she is a woman they try to remove her from the race. She finishes in four hours and 20 minutes. (1967)

40. Kathy Kusner becomes the first woman ever licensed to race on the flat track in major legalized gambling races after winning a sex discrimination suit against the Maryland Race Commission. The Commission had denied her a license claiming that she "lacked sufficient strength to control
a horse in competition and was more at the level of an exercise boy in terms of skill." Kusner goes on to become an Olympic silver medalist, a two-time U.S. National Horse Show champion and the first female jockey and champion in South Africa's history. (1968)

41. A sex chromatin test for women athletes is introduced as a prerequisite for Olympic competition. (1968)

42. The Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) is created. The AIAW organized and ran sport opportunities for college women. It advocated equality in sport and successfully provided opportunities for collegiate women until 1982 when the NCAA, after resisting the participation of women in sport for its entire history, voted to provide competitive opportunities for women. (1971)

43. Title IX, the federal law that opened the door of opportunity for girls and women to participate in sports by prohibiting gender discrimination in schools and colleges that receive federal funding, is signed by President Richard M. Nixon. (June 23, 1972)

44. Six women compete in the New York City marathon and stage a protest of the ruling that they must start the race 10 minutes ahead of the men. When the time elapses, the women get up and run with the men. The Amateur Athletic Union adds 10 minutes to their finishing times, the women sue and simultaneous start times soon become the rule. (1972)

45. 817,073 girls participate in high school sports. (1972)

Women's Sports Foundation Fact Database
National Federation of State High School Associations
International Olympic Committee
100 GREATEST Women in Sports (1976)
Encyclopedia of Women and Sports (1996)
Encyclopedia of Women and Sport in America (1998)
Grace & Glory: A Century of Women in the Olympics (1996)
Her Story in Sport: A Historical Anthology of Women in Sports (1982)
The Book of Women's Firsts (1992)
Women in Sport: The Complete Book on the World's Greatest Female
Athletes (1997)
Women in Sport: Issues and Controversy (1993)