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Biographies

Timeline: Women in Sports

From Mt. Olympus to Cooperstown, N.Y.

by Chris Frantz
776 b.c.

No girls allowed at the first Olympics, but the Games of Hera, featuring footraces for women, are held every four years.

1567

Mary Queen of Scots is said to be the first woman to play golf in Scotland. She scandalizes the country when she plays golf a few days after her husband Lord Darnley's murder.

1704

Feisty Sarah Kemble Knight undertakes a solo horseback journey from Boston to New York.

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1811

The first women's golf tournament is held at Musselburgh, Scotland.

1851

Amelia Jenks Bloomer recommends the practical pants that would bear her name.

1856

Catherine Beecher publishes the first exercise manual for women.

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1875

U.S. postage stamp commemorating Annie Oakley

Wellesley College opens and requires physical education as part of the curriculum.

Annie Oakley beats her future husband, champion marksman Frank Butler, at a shooting competition.

1884
Wimbledon

The women's singles competition begins at Wimbledon. Maud Watson is the first champion.

1895

Annie Smith Peck is the first woman to climb the Matterhorn.

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1897

Lena Jordan becomes the first person to perform a triple somersault on the trapeze.

1900

Women compete in the Paris Olympics in golf, tennis, and croquet.

1901

Annie Taylor is the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

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1902

Since there was no women's competition, figure skater Madge Syers of Britain enters the men's world championships and places second. In 1908, she would win the first women's Olympic gold medal.

1907

St. Louis, Mo. becomes the home of the first organized women's bowling league.

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1914

The American Athletic Union (AAU) allows women to register for the national swimming championships.

1917

Lucy Diggs Slowe becomes the first African-American woman to win a national title in any sport when she wins the first women's title at the American Tennis Association (ATA) national tournament.

1922

The AAU opens track and field events to women.

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1924

Figure skating is the only sport open to women at the first Winter Olympic Games.

1926
Gertrude Ederle

Gertrude Ederle

Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim the English Channel.

1928

Women finally compete in Olympic track and field events.

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1931

Virne Mitchell, pitcher, becomes the first woman in professional baseball. She strikes out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrigin an exhibition game. Baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis bans women from the sport later that year.

1932
Babe Didrikson

Didrikson wins hurdles, 1932 Olympics

Babe Didrikson wins the team championship singlehandedly at the AAU national track and field meet.

1937

Conchita Cintron of Chile begins her bullfighting career in Mexico.

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1943

The All American Girls' Baseball League was formed to fill ballparks emptied by baseball players going to war.

1944

Swimmer Ann Curtis is the first woman to win the Sullivan Award.

1947

Barbara Washburn becomes the first woman to climb Mount McKinley.

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1948
Alice Coachman

Alice Coachman

Alice Coachman is the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal. She grabs her gold in the high jump.

1948

Patty Berg and others found the Ladies' Professional Golf Association (LPGA).

1950

Florence Chadwick beats Gertrude Ederle's 1926 record for swimming the English Channel.

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1950

12-year-old Kathryn Johnson becomes the first girl to play Little League Baseball in Corning, N.Y.

1952

Women and men compete together in Olympic equestrian events.

1953

Maureen Connolly becomes the first woman to win a Grand Slam—all four major tennis championships.

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1954

16-year-old Canadian Marilyn Bell is the first person to swim across Lake Ontario.

1955

The first LPGA Championship is held.

1956
Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson

Althea Gibson is the first black person to win a tennis Grand Slam title when she wins the French Championship (the future French Open).

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1957

Althea Gibson becomes the top-ranked women's tennis player with Wimbledon and U.S. Championships under her belt.

1959

Patty Berg hits a hole-in-one in the U.S. Women's Open. She's the first woman to score an ace in a United States Golf Association tournament.

Next: 1960s to the present

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Kwanzaa was first celebrated in the United States in 1966.

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