Women's athletics commenced about 60 years after the start of the men's sport. Women's involvement in athletics was held back by the medical and general views that this was a strenuous sport requiring a level of exertion beyond the biological capabilities of female bodies. Their difficult initiation into athletics occurred under male gaze; they encountered opposition from the public, the medical profession and from the male-controlled athletics organizations. A serious participation in athletics requires significant exertion and dedicated training. While the prevailing view was that moderate physical exercise without strain enhanced women's health, the exertion required for athletics was deemed to be potentially dangerous. Within essentialist views of gender, women's involvement in athletics was thought to have implications for their nurturing and domestic roles. When the pioneer women athletes tried to excel, they were said to be straining themselves and their participation in the sport was brought into question. By using theoretical insights drawn mostly from Foucault, training manuals from the early decades of women's athletics and material from interviews with some of the first English female athletes are examined to investigate the attitudes of both genders to women in athletics and to analyse how they circumvented the potential veto of their sport by men.
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