|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
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
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....