Fire on the Track

Katherine Gale

4.5 Stars

October 30, 2017

A fascinating look at the challenges faced by the first women track and field athletes to compete in the Olympics. Tied up in the story of the first women track and field Olympiads is also the history of women's involvement in sports in general, especially the resistance and criticism they faced both from men and from other women.

These women athletes faced derision from society, which espoused the belief that women involved in masculine sports (i.e. sports that were not aesthetic) would lose their femininity and fail to attract a man and produce babies. It was also believed that sports made women more prone to lesbianism or caused them to evolve into a new gender somewhere between man and woman, all of which were considered unacceptable. These women were thought by many to be simply incapable of competing at the same level as men. I was surprised, though, at the degree to which women also believed in these views and degraded other women—Betty Robinson herself, at the beginning of her career, expressed the view that women were simply not capable of running longer distances.

You don't have to be a sports fan or know anything about sports to enjoy this book. I have little interest in sports myself, but I do love history and this is an excellently written narrative.