Women’s History is Sports History

Women’s History is Sports History

By Kieran Robertson

As you have most likely seen by now, on Sunday, July 7, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team won the World Cup. This win, the fourth time Americans have taken home first prize at the Women’s World Cup, was celebrated both in the locker room and around the United States. It has rightfully been hailed as an important moment for women’s sports.

The win wasn’t without a little bit of Ohio history as well. Rose Lavelle, a midfielder who wears number 16 on the national team, was born and raised in Cincinnati! Lavelle scored the second of  two goals for the USA on Sunday.

Ohio women, like Lavelle, have been excelling in sports for years. Here’s a just a sampling of Ohio’s champions that are documented in the Ohio History Connection’s collections and across the many institutions that submit to Ohio Memory:

Maude Bechdolt Detro of Loveland, Ohio, in 1967. Maude competed in the Summer Olympics in 1972, finishing 28th in archery.
gay-games.jpg This photograph from the GOHI Community Collection shows Ohio medal winners from the 2014 Gay Games.
Grossman.jpg Ann Grossman of Grove City, Ohio, played as a nationally ranked tennis player by the age of 9. She qualified to play in the U.S. Open at 16, and turned professional in 1988, at the age of 18. She retired in 1998 after an impressive career. Image courtesy of Southwest Public Libraries.
 The WNBA wouldn’t exist for over sixty years, but in 1931, the girls of Elmore High School took home the Ottawa County Championship. Image courtesy of Harris-Elmore Public Library.
  Sarah Fisher of Commercial Point, Ohio, became the third youngest driver and youngest woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 in 2000. She placed third, becoming the youngest woman to ever place. Image courtesy of Southwest Public Libraries.
The Toledo Troopers, formed in 1971 to play in the Women’s Professional Football League, became one of the winningest teams in professional football history. Photo courtesy of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library.

By no means do these photos even begin to capture the huge number of Ohio women who have contributed to the world of sports. Fortunately, you can see much more by visiting the Ohio History Center during the run of Ohio: Champion of SportsIn this exhibit, you can hear the stories of Ohio’s incredible female athletes including Alta Weiss, Stephanie Hightower, Katie Smith, and the Ohio Roller Derby.

It’s exciting to watch the United States Women’s National Soccer Team take home the World Cup during the run of Champion of Sports, but this win has us thinking of another major project that the Ohio History Connection is working on as well: the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Passed in 1920, the 19th Amendment made it illegal to deny a person the right to vote because of their sex. This gave many women the right to vote for the first time (however, many were still blocked from the ballot box due to their race).

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team has been very outspoken on the issue of equal pay for women around the country. Ohio women have been campaiging for equal rights for generations. To celebrate the anniversary of the 19th Amendement, we are going to be telling the story of these generations of women’s activism, from the 1800s until 2019. Stay tuned to this blog for more information on the history of Ohio women’s activism as the celebration commences.

Posted July 8, 2019
Topics: Sports

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