Written by 03:47 World

They Called It ‘Improper’ to Have Women in the Olympics. But She Persisted.

It was 1922, two years before the last time the Olympics were held in Paris. On a warm August day, about 20,000 people came to Pershing Stadium to watch 77 athletes in track and field, including a team from the United States. There was a parade of nations. There were world records. There were 27 journalists and news coverage around the world.

And at the start, a 38-year-old woman named Alice Milliat welcomed the world to Paris. She was the founder of the International Women’s Sports Federation, known in her native France as the Fédération Sportive Féminine International.

Every competitor that day was a woman.

“I hereby declare the first female Olympic Games open,” she said.

Milliat was making a statement that echoes today. The male-dominated world of the mainline Olympics, busy preparing for the Paris Games of 1924, ignored the 1922 event, other than to complain about Milliat’s unauthorized use of “Olympics.” They dismissed the rising idea that women should compete at all.

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Last modified: 11 July 2024
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