Know Ohio: Fierce Female Athletes
March is Women’s History Month and up next Know Ohio correspondent Mary Fecteau takes a shot at telling us about some fierce female competitors who scored some major points for women’s rights.
Today, it’s not unusual to see women and girls swinging, shooting, and kicking their way to victory, playing all kinds of sports. So it’s probably hard to believe that there was a time when female athletes were discouraged from playing competitive sports. But some tenacious Ohio women pushed back against these norms just by doing the things they loved.
Annie Oakley, a sharpshooter from a rural community in Western Ohio shot down gender stereotypes when she became the world’s most famous exhibition shooter – outperforming nearly every male competitor with her amazing trick shots.
Other talented Ohio women found their calling during World War II. While men were overseas fighting, women filled the jobs they left behind – and that included professional baseball playing. Cincinnati native Dottie Kamenshek was playing softball in an informal league when she was scouted into the All American Girls Professional Baseball League – and she quickly became one of the its best players. The left-handed first baseman played 10 seasons for the Rockford Peaches – and was considered one of the best athletes of her time.
These early women athletes proved that women were as fierce competitors as men, but female athletes weren’t really given a shot -- until 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed a federal law that prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender in public school activities. Title 9, as it was called, meant that schools had to give the same time and attention to girls’ sports as they do to boys’ -- and this was a game-changer for female athletes all around the country.
Women athletes like Ohio State’s track and field star Stephanie Hightower achieved greatness – remaining undefeated for three years in the 60-meter dash and hurdles. And Clarksburg, OH native Cindy Noble, who played college basketball, took her talents all the way to the Olympics.
Ohio has produced some seriously fierce female athletes – and new ones are scoring points all the time – but when you’re celebrating on the court, rink, or field, remember the women whose greatest victory was achieving equality.
Website Article: Ohio Jobs & Family Services, Ohio Women's Hall of Fame, Sports
Website Article: National Education Association, NEA Today, Nine Ways Title IX Has Helped Girls and Women in Education
Website Article: Know Your IX, the Basics, 9 Things to know about Title IX
Magazine Article: Scholastic News, Unequal Access, March 5, 2007
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