As the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup has kicked off, we see that women have come a long way in making their place in a male dominated profession. From the ancient civilizations, women have participated in different sporting activities even before the Olympic Games.
In the ancient Greek civilization, the Heraean Games, dedicated to the goddess Hera, consisted of different races for maidens. Although there were no proper sports uniforms, there were however dressing codes for the participants. Other different cultures also allowed royal women to learn horse riding and sword fighting.
The modern Olympic Games which were started in 1896 initially didn’t allow women to participate. Even then the sporting activities for women were more for fitness than competition. Such games were informal as compared to male athletes. The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), a sports organization based in America, held the first national championship for women in swimming in 1916. This is was the first organization which made women’s participation in sports official.
Women started playing in the Olympics Games in 1900, though in fewer activities than men. Alice Milliat founded the Fédération Sportive Féminine Internationale in October 1921 to increase international awareness of women’s participation in sports. A lot of women’s sports were organized from all over the world and thus, gained wider recognition.
One of the major milestone in history was that of Edith Cummings who was the first female athlete to become a golfer and to appear on the cover of Time magazine in 1924. She and her friend, Ginevra had met the author of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, who immortalized both of them in his novel. Alice Coachman was the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal for high jump in 1948.
Later in the 20th century, many countries encouraged sport activities in schools up to university and beyond. Many Muslim women also started participating despite restrictions placed by their religion, making their nations proud of their achievements. The 2012 Olympics Games in London was the first in which women competed in every sport. However, some discrimination still remain as sports are still male dominated. The battle for gender equality still goes on both for performance and pay in sports. The World Surf League, an organization for professional surfers, announced in September 2018 equal payment for male and female athletes in all events.