A shout out to all women who have served in the military. THANK YOU
Historically, women’s sports were defined by sexist notions that female athletes ought to foster femininity and sexual attractiveness. As such, female athletes participated in beauty contests to demonstrate their sex appeal as well as athletic ability. However, the 1940s brought war to the United States and millions of men entered the military. Many women joined the military service or left their positions as homemakers to fill the void left in the work force, earning the moniker, “Rosie the Riveter.” They demonstrated that they were equal to the task. The self-esteem and self-confidence gained by women during these critical times propelled the movement for women’s equal rights. Many women believed that if they could compete successfully in the work force, then they could certainly compete on the athletic fields.
World War II also saw the advent of the first woman’s professional athletic team. The All-American Girls Baseball League (AAGBL) was started in 1943 as an attempt to replace Major League Baseball, which had been canceled due to the war. Founded by Chicago magnate Philip K. Wrigley, the AAGBL (which at its peak operated in ten cities and drew nearly a million annual spectators) championed women’s baseball as a spectacle of feminine “nice girls” who could “play like men.” When World War II ended, organizations for women in sport began to increase as sport became more competitive and intercollegiate and interscholastic competition spread.
World War II mobilized women to make further inroads into the male-dominated domain of sports. Working-class women played basketball and softball in public and industrial leagues, as well as leagues formed by the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Middle-and upper-class women embraced tennis, golf, and skiing at private clubs and resorts. Black female athletes competed in intercollegiate track and field during the late 1930s and early 1940s and dominated post-World War II Olympic competitions. Enlisted women participated in military service sports and competed against civilian teams to demonstrate that military personnel were just like the woman next door.
Thank you to the women, then and now, who embrace their competitiveness and athleticism and inspire us all to be the best we can be!
Learn more about women in our armed forces: