Saturday, October 15, 2005

Wilma Rudolph: Feminist of the Day?

Wilma Rudolph
Olympic athlete, protestor for racial equality
"I tell them that the most important aspect is to be yourself and have confidence in yourself. I remind them the triumph can't be had without the struggle."

One of the reasons I decided to do this feminist of the day feature on my blog is to read about cool women that I'd never heard of before. Wilma Rudolph was certainly an impressive woman. She was the 20 of 22 children, born in the pre-civil rights movmeent American South - although she was premature she wasn't able to go to the hospital because it was a white hospital. She got one disease of poverty after another, and ended up crippled from polio. Skip forward ten years and she was at the Rome Olympics (same as Alex), and the first American woman to win the 100m, 200m, and 400m, track events.

That's impressive, what hapened next is the reason I'm glad I heard of her. She went back to her hometown in Clarksville Tennessee, and insisted that the parade and dinner her honour were integrated (both firsts for Clarksville). Then she joined in the civil rights protests in the years that followed.

There are always a few people born without much in our society, and through a combination of luck, hard work, and the support of those around them, manage to get somewhere. Some of them turn their back on where they came from and claim that because they can do it anyone can - I hate those people (I'm trying to think of a NZ equivalent of Clarence Thomas, possibly John Tamihere - I don't know a lot about his background). But then there are the ones who don't turn away - those people rock.

The other bit of Wilma Rudolph's story which really resonated with me is the role of Wilma's mother. Blanche Rudolph wouldn't give up when the doctor's told her that her daughter wouldn't be able to walk again. She found a black teaching hospital that would treat her, and took her twice a week, even though it was 50 miles away.

A huge part of my feminism is respect and awe for what women have had to do under our patriarchal capitalist society to raise their children. I think that relationship is an example of the hope that we may be able to build that other world.

Conclusion: I'm not much of a sports fan, but I love the civil rights movement. It's as an example of one of the many women who were the people who built and ran the civil rights movement that Wilma Rudolph rocks.


  1. Anonymous4:29 am


    I have actually known about Wilma for quite some time. I remember thinking how remarkable her stroy was. She overcame physical and social obstacles and made the world recognize that talent was unversal

  2. Anonymous1:06 pm

    I'm actually doing a history project on her! She's great! Before this project, I only heard her name twice of thrice, but not that this project is going on, I realize how much barriers she broke and how high her dreams and goals are.