I love sport. I will watch anything and everything. Men, women, I just love to watch professional, semi-professional and amateur athletes competing and striving to succeed in the sports they love. I feel like I have grown-up as part of a generation that are just used to seeing women compete in sports at the highest level. My earliest memory of a woman doing something incredible in sport is of Sally Gunnell winning gold at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. However, as Rachel Ignotofsky reveals in this superbly informative read, for many years women were kept far from the sporting arena and many sports did not allow women to compete at the highest level until very recently. And even though women have won their battle to compete at the top sporting tables, the battle still goes on for equal pay, equal opportunities, equal media coverage and equal funding. But as the women in this book prove, these are just more battles that they will face head on and will not stop fighting until they have won.
In fifty detailed biographies, Ignotofsy highlights the achievements of sporting women and the struggles and challenges that they had to overcome to become the best in their sporting field. From an athlete having to disguise herself as a man, to athletes battling racial inequality, to those having to overcome stereotypes and prejudices, none of the sportswomen that feature in the book have had it easy. Many were told that they would not make it or that society would not allow them to make it. And then there were those that were simply refused access to the sports they loved because they were the wrong gender or the wrong skin colour. Luckily for the sporting world, these women would not be put off or belittled by such things. These women were not only physically strong, they were mentally tough. They refused to accept defeat, to conform to stereotypes and to bow to the expectations of society. They were, and are, the go-getters, the game-changers, the tearer downers of barriers and they have inspired generations.
The biographies are made up of athletes past and present, including the well known and the more obscure. Readers will be familiar with the household names of Serena Williams and Simone Billes but names such as Ann Calvello and Tiny Broadwick will be unfamiliar (at least they were to me). Familiar or not, all of these sportswomen have a great story to tell. Each athlete’s biography is given a beautiful and detailed double page spread. On the left is an illustration of the athlete which is accompanied by short text captions that cover career highlights and moments of great significance. A quote from the athlete completes the page. Written on the right page is a bio of the athlete which includes their early life and plenty of information about their sporting career and accomplishments. Short snippets featuring stand-out moments are dotted around the edge of the page.
Additional information is peppered throughout the book and includes details on muscle anatomy, statistics about financial and media involvement in women’s sport and recognition of notable women’s sports teams. There is a lovely timeline that shows the progression, or lack thereof, of women’s sporting opportunities from the First Ancient Olympics to the present day. And not content with just fifty women, Ignotofsky adds an additional fifteen women in a brief portrait gallery at the end of the book which includes very brief bios.
Beautifully presented, thoroughly researched and packed full of information; this is a celebration of female athletes from around the world. It is a superbly informative read that is motivational, inspiring and shows what is possible when you dare to dream and are determined to break down barriers. Packed full of girl-power and can do attitude, this is a must read for any young sports-girl.
Recommended for 10+.