More Women in Sports

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff


  • The first international women's archery competition was held in 1931. Janina Spychajowa-Kurkowska of Poland won the women's singles title. She won six more world titles in archery, more than any other man or woman in history.
  • Lida Howell of the U.S. won the most archery titles ever. Between 1883 and 1907 she won 17 National Women's Archery Championships.


  • Jean Balukas of Brooklyn, New York, began playing billiards when she was 4 years old and won her first national women's championship at age 14 in 1959.
  • The Women's Prefessional Billiards Association (WPBA) was formed in 1976 and features such current celebrities as Jeanette Lee, a.k.a. “The Black Widow”, and Allison Fisher, the perennial Player of the Year.


  • Conchita Cintron was born in Chile in 1922 and began fighting bulls in Mexico at age 15. During her 13-year career she slew 800 bulls. She retired in 1951.
  • The first female professional bullfighter from the United States was Patricia McCormick. She made her debut in the ring on January 20, 1952, in Juarez, Mexico.
  • On May 25, 1996, after a victory in Nimes, France, Christina Sanchez became the first woman to achieve the rank of matador in Europe.


  • Croquet is believed to be the first outdoor game played by women and the first game in which men and women played together on an equal basis. The game came to the United States from England during the Civil War, and became an overnight hit.
  • The first women's croquet championship was held in England in 1869 and was won by a Mrs. Joad.


  • The first women's national fencing championship in the United States was held in 1912. Adeline Baylis won the competition.
  • From 1932 to 1956 Ellen Muller-Preiss of Austria competed in every Olympic fencing competition. She won the gold medal in 1932 and the bronze from 1936 to 1948.

Horseshoe Pitching

  • In 1920 Marjorie Voohies won the first national tournament for female horseshoe pitchers.


  • Women first competed with men in horseback riding in the Olympics in 1952. That year, Lis Hartel, who had retrained herself to ride after recovering from polio, won the silver medal at this event.

Table Tennis

  • Ruth Hughes Aarons is the only American woman to win the world table tennis championship singles title. She won in 1936.


  • Inna Ryskal of the Soviet Union is the only woman to receive four Olympic medals for volleyball: a silver in 1964 and golds in 1968, 1972, and 1976.


  • Women's wrestling became a sport in the 2004 Olympics.

Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year

Year Athlete Sport
1931 Helene Madison swimming
1932 Babe Didrikson track
1933 Helen Jacobs tennis
1934 Virginia Van Wie golf
1935 Helen Wills Moody tennis
1936 Helen Stephens track
1937 Katherine Rawls swimming
1938 Patty Berg golf
1939 Alice Marble tennis
1940 Alice Marble tennis
1941 Betty Hicks Newell golf
1942 Gloria Callen swimming
1943 Patty Berg golf
1944 Ann Curtis swimming
1945 Babe Didrikson Zaharias golf
1946 Babe Didrikson Zaharias golf
1947 Babe Didrikson Zaharias golf
1948 Fanny Blankers-Koen track
1949 Marlene Bauer golf
1950 Babe Didrikson Zaharias golf
1951 Maureen Connolly tennis
1952 Maureen Connolly tennis
1953 Maureen Connolly tennis
1954 Babe Didrikson Zaharias golf
1955 Patty Berg golf
1956 Patricia McCormick diving
1957 Althea Gibson tennis
1958 Althea Gibson tennis
1959 Maria Bueno tennis
1960 Wilma Rudolph track
1961 Wilma Rudolph track
1962 Dawn Fraser swimming
1963 Mickey Wright golf
1964 Mickey Wright golf
1965 Kathy Whitworth golf
1966 Kathy Whitworth golf
1967 Billie Jean King tennis
1968 Peggy Fleming skating
1969 Debbie Meyer swimming
1970 Chi Cheng track
1971 Evone Goolagong tennis
1972 Olga Korbut gymnastics
1973 Billie Jean King tennis
1974 Chris Evert tennis
1975 Chris Evert tennis
1976 Nadia Comaneci gymnastics
1977 Chris Evert tennis
1978 Nancy Lopez golf
1979 Tracy Austin tennis
1980 Chris Evert Lloyd tennis
1981 Tracy Austin tennis
1982 Mary Decker Tabb track
1983 Martina Navratilova tennis
1984 Mary Lou Retton gymnastics
1985 Nancy Lopez golf
1986 Martina Navratilova tennis
1987 Jackie Joyner-Kersee track
1988 Florence Griffith Joyner track
1989 Steffi Graf tennis
1990 Beth Daniel golf
1991 Monica Seles tennis
1992 Monica Seles tennis
1993 Sheryl Swoopes basketball
1994 Bonnie Blair speed skating
1995 Rebecca Lobobasketball
1996 Amy Van Dykenswimming
1997 Martina Hingistennis
1998 Se Ri Pakgolf
1999 U.S. World Cup Teamsoccer
2000Marion Jonestrack
2001Jennifer Capriatitennis
2002Serena Williamstennis
2003, 2004, 2005Annika Sorenstam golf
2006, 2007Lorena Ochoagolf
2008Candace Parkerbasketball
2009Serena Williamstennis
2010Lindsey Vonnskiing
2011Abby Wambachsoccer
2012Gabby Douglasgymnastics

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

American athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias earned more medals, broke more records, and swept more tournaments in more sports than any other athlete, male or female, in the twentieth century. She played forward with the Golden Cyclone Squad, one of the best women's basketball teams in the country. At the 1932 Olympics she won gold medals in javelin throwing, 80-meter hurdles, and the high jump. From 1940 to 1950 she won every available golf title. In 1945 she was named Woman Athlete of the Year by a unanimous poll of Associated Press sportswriters.

Sources +