The first Olympics games (at least what we think of as the modern Olympics) took place in 1896 in Athens, and featured the best 280 athletes from 13 different countries, competing in 43 sporting events.
None of them were women.
This isn’t surprising, since women also weren’t allowed to vote, own land, or wear pants! But four years later, one of those things changed.
In the 1900 Paris Games, 22 female athletes (2.2% of the total number of participants) were allowed to compete in five events:
By 1920, 135 female athletes were set to compete in six disciplines during the summer games, and one event (figure skating) in the first-ever winter games. Many countries didn’t see the value in sending women to participate in the Olympics, or didn’t want to go to the expense and trouble of providing chaperones (which male athletes did not require) so they did not encourage their female citizens to train or attend.
But that didn’t stop them.
As time marched on, it became more acceptable for women to play a wider variety of sports recreationally, and, therefore, compete in more Olympic events.
The world watched in awe as the bodies of “the weaker sex” performed incredible acts of strength, speed, and agility – at times even besting their male counterparts.
Though women were proving themselves just as capable as men, they were still not allowed to participate in the same sporting events for the first hundred years of the games. They were allowed to compete in some of the more “feminine” sports, but had to fight for each new event to be added.
In 1991, the International Olympic Committee finally began to take steps toward gender equality in the games, stating that any new sport added to the program must be open to both men and women.
The 2012 games in London were a landmark event: for the first time since the Olympics began, women competed in ALL of the sports on the program. In this year’s summer games, over 5,000 women are predicted to comprise 48.8% of all athletes – a far cry from 2.2% in 1900 – to compete in over 300 events.
Five new sports are joining the program this year – and women will compete in ALL of them:
- Sport climbing
And while we’re rooting for Team USA all the way, we can’t help but beam with pride for every single female athlete ready to strut her stuff and show us what she’s worked so hard for. Many 2021 hopefuls are mothers, and some will be pregnant or lactating while competing this summer – we’d like to see the male competitors do that!
10 Women to Watch: Don’t Sleep on These U.S. Athletes at the 2021 Games
- #1 – Simone Biles (Gymnastics)
- #2 – Serena Williams (Tennis)
- #3 – A’ja Wilson (Basketball)
- #4 – Dalilah Muhammad (Track & Field)
- #5 – Allyson Felix (Track & Field)
- #6 – Katie Ledecky (Swimming)
- #7 – Megan Rapinoe (Soccer)
- #8 – Carissa Moore (Surfing)
- #9 – Maggie Steffens (Water Polo)
- #10 – Brighton Zeuner (Skateboarding)