Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women by Roseanne Montillo

Jill Rey

5 Stars

November 2, 2017

Publication Date: October 17th, 2017

Stars: 5 Stars

This book was an easy choice. As a *retired* female athlete I often forget about the women whom came before me and paved the way to allow me to play collegiate soccer. These women allowed me the opportunity to choose sporting practices rather than sewing practices. This riveting non-fiction was exactly what I needed to not only remind me to keep fighting for women’s sports, and women’s rights in general, but also humble me for the opportunities I have had that others before me have not.

Betty Robinson was a female track athlete in an era when men’s sports prevailed. While track never appealed to me (who WANTS to run for fun, isn’t that punishment?), my cousins were record-holding track and field athletes all through high school. This connection, through my cousins, only helped to further draw me into this book. Conversely, I’d recently finished The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the similarities in time period and storyline captured my intrigue as well.

Despite the very title of this book holding Betty Robinson’s name, there are several other prevalent female track athletes mentioned within. These names included: Polish-American Stella Walsh, Texan Babe Didrikson, the first African-American female to compete in the Olympics, Tidye Pickett, and young Helen Stephens. Without giving away too much, appearances of these women and the muscles they possessed caused extreme out roar in the media and public. Remember, this was a time that believed women ONLY belonged in the kitchen and definitely should not possess “manly muscles” gained from athletics.

This story follows Betty from a 16-year-old, discovered for her speed after running down and catching a morning commuter train, to a 20-something Betty recovering from a plane crash and never expected to run again. Throughout, Betty’s resolve, resiliency and strength are on full display, and while she may not have fully understood her place in history at the time, it is clear to the reader how important those 1928 Olympics would become for female athletes in the United States.

As a side note, it was interesting to see the different takes on the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. After having just finished The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which followed a MEN’s rowing team and their treatment/accommodations in Berlin, it was certainly eye opening when compared to the WOMEN’s track and field team’s treatment and accommodations. Even the comparisons within the books regarding swimmer Eleanor Holm and her removal from the Olympic team while aboard the USS Manhattan on the way to Berlin, differed when told from the women’s point of view.

*Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Blogging for Books, in conjunction with the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.