Lest there be any doubt, women have been competing at the Olympic Games since 1900 when women’s tennis, sailing, croquet, equestrian and golf were added to the program and 22 women participated. In the subsequent 116 years, female participation has grown exponentially. In 2012 there were 269 women on the U.S. Olympic Team compared to 261 men, and American women have won gold medals in 31 sports.
Over the next four months leading up to the Games in Rio, we will spotlight the trailblazers and amazing women who paved the way for America’s success and earned the first gold medal for the U.S. in each sport. We will start with the first games women were allowed to participate in, and count down to the the most recent games in London. Be prepared to be amazed!
1900, Paris – Golf – Margaret Abbott
The Paris 1900 Olympic Games were the first to include women, and Abbott was one of only 22 women that competed across all sports. She shot 47 in nine holes to take first place, though, instead of a gold medal, she received a porcelain bowl. Abbott hadn’t even realized she was competing in an Olympic event at the time. As the International Olympic Committee didn’t decide until after her death that these results were part of the Olympic program, Abbott never knew she was the first female Olympic champion.
1904, Saint Louis – Archery – Matilda Howell
The St. Louis 1904 Olympic Games saw the debut of women’s archery on the Olympic program. With three women’s events – the double National round, the double Columbia round and the team round – Howell completed a clean sweep of the gold medals. Howell won her first national championship in 1883 and, by the time she retired in 1907, she had won 17 national titles. Her scores in the 1895 championship set records that weren’t broken for 36 years.