Timeline: Women in Sports

From Mt. Olympus to Cooperstown, N.Y.

by Chris Frantz
Wilma Rudolph, Rome Olympics, 1960

Wilma Rudolph winning at the 1960 Rome Olympics

Wilma Rudolph is the first woman to win three Olympic gold medals in track and field at one Olympic Games.


The National Women's Rowing Association is founded.


Soviet gymnast Larissa Latynina completes her Olympic career with a total of 18 medals—more than any other athlete in Olympic history.


Roberta Gibb becomes the first woman to run and finish the Boston Marathon. It's unofficial since women weren't officially entered until 1972.


Wyomia Tyus is the first woman to win two consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 100 m dash.


Diane Crump rides onto Hialeah Racetrack and becomes the first woman to ride in a United States parimutuel race. The next year she would become the first woman to ride in the Kentucky Derby.

Sharon Sites Adams is the first woman to sail solo across the Pacific Ocean.


Women finally get the official nod to play five-player, full-court basketball.


The U.S. Congress passes Title IX to foster more equitable federal financial aid to women's sports programs.


Robyn Smith is the first female jockey to win a stakes race.

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King

Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match.


Girls are officially allowed to play Little League Baseball.

The National Women's Football League is formed, the first professional tackle league for women.

A view of Everest from Dudh Kosi, the highest river in the world.

Mt. Everest

Junko Tabei of Japan is the first woman to climb Mt. Everest.


Krystyna Choynowski-Liskiewicz of Poland is the first woman to sail around the world solo.

Shirley Muldowney becomes the first woman to win a national Top Fuel event in the National Hot Rod Association. She would win the NHRA points title in 1978, 1980, and 1982. She's the only person to hold three titles.

Britain's Princess Anne competes in the Montreal Olympics.


Janet Guthrie is the first woman to race in the Indianapolis 500.

Lucy Harris is the first (and so far, only) woman to be drafted by a National Basketball Association team, the New Orleans Jazz. She chose not to play.


Ann Meyers becomes the first woman to try out and sign a contract for an NBA team. In 1979 she's the first player drafted for the new Women's Professional Basketball League.


Kathy Whitworth is inducted into the Golf Hall of Fame with 88 victories—more than any other player in the PGA or LPGA.


Tamara McKinney becomes the first American female skier to win the Alpine World Cup overall championship.

Joan Benoit Samuelson

Joan Benoit

Georgeann Wells-Blackwell is the first woman to dunk in a collegiate basketball game.

Joan Benoit wins the first women's Olympic marathon.


Libby Riddles is the first woman to mush her way to an Iditarod win.


Nancy Lieberman becomes the first woman to play in a professional men's basketball league.

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, heptathlon champion

Jackie Joyner-Kersee

Jackie Joyner-Kersee is the first woman athlete on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine.


Chris Evert retires from the professional tennis tour and her 1,309 career match wins tops the men's and women's charts until Martina Navratilova's 1,438 match wins.


Juli Inkster became the first woman to win the Invitational Pro-Am at Pebble Beach—the only professional golf tournament in the world in which women and men compete head-to-head.


The United States soccer team wins the first Women's World Cup.

Manon Rheaume

Manon Rheaume

Manon Rheaume becomes the only woman to start in a National Hockey League game in an exhibition game for the Tampa Bay Lightning.


Lyn St. James comes in 11th in the Indianapolis 500 and takes the Rookie of the Year prize.


Girls win all three division titles in the All-American Soap Box Derby.

Julie Krone

Julie Krone

Ann Meyers is the first woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Julie Krone wins the Belmont Stakes and becomes the first woman jockey to win a Triple Crown race.

Bonnie Blair

Bonnie Blair

Speed skater Bonnie Blair becomes the most decorated American in the history of the Winter Olympics.

Martina Navratilova retires with an all-time male or female record of 1,438 match wins to her credit.

Picabo Street

Picabo Street

Picabo Street is the first American woman to win the World Cup title for downhill skiing.


The U.S. women gymnasts take their first Olympic team gold. The competition ends dramatically with Kerri Strug valiantly doing a perfect landing on an injured ankle.>


The Women's National Basketball Association has its first season.


At 15, Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest woman to win the Olympic gold for figure skating.


Wanda Rucker is the first woman to win a men's bass fishing tournament.

Chamique Holdsclaw

Chamique Holdsclaw

Chamique Holdsclaw becomes the first woman basketball player to win the Sullivan Award.

Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open. The next day, she and her sister Venus take the women's doubles title.

Basketball playing identical twins Kelly and Coco Miller win the Sullivan Award.


90-year-old Doris Haddock ("Granny D") completes a 14-month cross country walk to advocate campaign finance reform.

Julie Krone is the first woman elected to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame.


American Ann Bancroft and Norwegian Liv Arnesen became the first women to cross Antarctica on skis.


Americans Jill Bakken and Vonetta Flowers win the first women's Olympic gold medal in bobsledding. Tristan Gale wins the first women's skeleton gold.

Sarah Hughes wins an upset gold in figure skating at Salt Lake City.

Pat Summitt

Pat Summitt

Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt is the first woman to post her 800th win.

Annika Sorenstam becomes the first woman to play in a PGA tournament in 58 years.

University of Connecticut Lady Huskies rack up 70 straight wins—the second longest streak in college basketball history.


14-year-old Michelle Wie becomes the youngest player in a PGA Tour event.

Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan

Michelle Kwan wins her ninth (eighth in succession) U.S. national figure skating title.

Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt gets her 880th win and becomes the winningest coach in NCAA history.

Ellen MacArthur broke the world's record for sailing solo around the world.

Danica Patrick chalks up the best showing by a woman in the Indianapolis 500 with a fourth place finish.


Epiphanny Prince sets a new high school basketball scoring record with 113 points.

Effa Manley is the first woman elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.


The Wimbledon tennis tournament announces that it will pay women and men equal prize money for the first time.

On October 5, 2007 Marion Jones announced her retirement from track and field after pleading guilty to federal charges for use of performance-enhancing drugs.


Professional tennis player, Justine Henin, was named the Laureus World Sports Academy's Sportswoman of the Year after 50 straight weeks as number one in the world.

On April 20, Danica Patrick won the Indy Japan 300, becoming the first woman to win an IndyCar race.


On February 5, legendary basketball coach Pat Summit of the University of Tennessee marks her 1,000th win on the court. The milestone occurred during her 35th year as the Lady Volunteers' head coach.


After losing her foot in a motorcycle accident in 1994, marathon runner and triathlete Amy Palmiero-Winters–fit with a custom-made running prosthetic–continued to run marathons and went on to set 12 world records. On January 1, 2010, she was the overall winner (beating all men and women) of the "Run to the Future," a 24 hour race in Glendale, Ariz., by running 130.04 miles. Her performance earned her the distinction of being the first amputee to qualify for the U.S. National Track & Field Team.


The University of Connecticut women's basketball team wins a record-breaking 90 games in a row. The streak, which began on April 6, 2008, came to an end on Dec. 30, 2010, when they lost to Stanford. The previous record of 88 consecutive wins was held by UCLA in the late 1970s.


Pat Summit of the University of Tennessee announces her retirement after the 2011–2012 season. She was diagnosed with early-onset dementia in 2011. Summit amassed a record of 1,098 wins and 208 losses—more wins than any other men's or women's college basketball coach.

For the first time in Olympic history, the U.S. sends more female Olympians than male to compete in the London 2012 Games. Further, women outmedal men for the U.S., China, and Russia. Finally, women's boxing makes its Olympic debut, with American Marlen Esparza winning bronze in the flyweight division, and Claressa Shields winning gold as a middleweight.

Ronda Rousey is the first female fighter to sign with Ultimate Fighter Championship (UFC), the largest mixed martial arts company.


Serena Williams wins 78 of 82 matches—at age 31.

The women's hockey team, the Boston Blades, beat two-time champions Montreal Stars 5-2, becoming the first American women's team to ever win a professional hockey cup in the CWHL.

Alex Morgan becomes youngest player named to U.S. Soccer's all-time Best XI women's national team.

Mikaela Shiffrin is youngest person to win gold in slalom in 2014 Winter Olympics.


Mo'ne Davis, 13, leads the Taney Dragons to a shutout win in the Little League World Series with a 70 mph fastball.

Highly successful professional basketball player who won Best Female Athlete ESPY award in 2012, Brittney Griner becomes first openly gay athlete endorsed by Nike.

Serena Williams wins U.S. Open again—and at 33, continues her reign as oldest woman to be ranked #1 in the world.

NBA hires former All Star and WNBA player Becky Hammon, who becomes their first full time female coach.

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