The Liz Library presents Irene Stuber's Women of Achievement - Women's History Month

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Episode #WHM-07 for Day 7
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Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
 who is solely responsible for its content.

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April 17, 1972 is one of those classic, "Are you kidding?" dates.
      According to HIStory, on 04-17-1972: Nina Kuscik became the first woman to officially run in the Boston Marathon - she crossed the finish line first in that handful of women who were finally invited to compete in the classic.
      Elaine Pedersen was one of that handful of women. In a 1997 interview that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, she said,
"It was really an earth-shattering moment. The Boston Marathon is the creme de la creme. To be there, to be a part of all that was exciting ... it was a watershed in many ways."
      OK, enough of HIStory, let's go to HERstory:
      In 1966 (six years before the official date of women's participation in the race) Roberta Bengay (Roberta Gibb Welch) hid in the bushes and then joined the runners just after take-off to get into the race.
      She ran the Boston Marathon in 3:12.2 and beat two-thirds of the men. Race officials, however, denied a woman had run the race.
"I know of no girl who ran in the Boston Marathon. I do know of a girl who is supposed to have run on the same roads as the marathon route today. But that's not the same."
      (By the way, recently WOAH was informed that "Bengay" was actually Roberta Gibb Welch.)
      The very next year, Katherine Switzer was refused permission to enter the Boston Marathon, but got a number in 1967 as K. Switzer. While racing she was recognized as a girl and officials chased her trying to pull off her number.
      (There's a famous photo of the attempts to remove her number which were foiled by male runners around her, as well as her speed.) Switzer finished the race and most certainly WAS the first woman to run the race under an official number.
      But Switzer paid a great price for her audacity. She was a member of the Syracuse University track team and was promptly suspended from the Amateur Athletic Union for "running without a chaperon!"
      For those who are shaking their heads and who had been thinking women had human rights in the U.S. "Forever."
      1966 was 34 years ago . . .
      Let's put these dates into perspective: In 1972, the year of the first woman to officially run in the Boston Marathom, Mia Hamm was born and Sally J. Priesant was ordained as the first woman rabbi in the United States, only the second woman rabbi in the recorded history of Judaism.

In 1966, the year a woman had to SNEAK into the Boston Marathon, the first Venus probe landed on our neighbor planet and the National Organization for Women was organized...
      Abortion was illegal in the United States even in the case of rape; the age of consent for females in most states was 12 or 14 years of age, employment ads in newspapers were segregated as to man or woman positions (guess where the better job$ were advertised!), and no woman had EVER been admitted as an undergraduate to Yale University. (Yale would admit the first woman in 1969).
      The Boston Marathon is approximately 26 miles long, was started in 1897 and is the world's oldest "foot race."
      In 1972, the Olympics would not allow women to run further than 1,500 meters - an earlier trial of a longer race resulted in a woman collapsing (as is not all that uncommon with men racers even at 100 meters) that was used an excuse to forbid women to run further -
"They thought it was terrible to see women get tired," explained Grete Waitz of Norway, one of the world's greatest marathon racers.
      Waitz is credited with spearheading the acceptance of women's competitive running. One woman said of Waitz:
"Before you came along, people used to come to watch the women. Now they come to watch the competition. Thank you."

YES - women's rights are young and tender....

© 1990-2006 Irene Stuber, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71902. Originally web-published at We are indebted to Irene Stuber for compiling this collection and for granting us permission to make it available again. The text of the documents may be freely copied for nonprofit educational use. Except as otherwise noted, all contents in this collection are © 1998-2009 the liz library.  All rights reserved. This site is hosted and maintained by the liz library.