Game Changers for
Women in Sports
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Women compete in the Olympics — in golf, tennis, croquet and sailing — for the first time.
Women’s swimming is recognized by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) as a sport.
AAU adds track and field events for women. Four years later, six teams compete in organization’s inaugural women’s basketball tournament.
Women make their debuts in gymnastics and track and field at the Summer Games in Amsterdam.
The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League is founded by Philip K. Wrigley.
Title IX a law preventing sex discrimination in education programs or activities (i.e., sports) that receive federal funding, is enacted.
Women compete in crew and basketball for the first time in the Summer Olympics.
The NCAA sanctions its first national championship tournaments for women in several sports, including basketball, gymnastics, soccer, swimming and tennis.
Mia Hamm plays in the first Women’s World Cup tournament, helping the U.S. win the championship.
The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is founded.
Softball and women’s soccer debut at the Summer Games in Atlanta.
The U.S. wins gold in Nagano in women’s ice hockey as it and women’s curling debut as Olympic medal sports.
Wimbledon announces that women will receive the same prize money as men.
For the first time in Olympic history, the U.S. sends more women than men to participate in the Summer Games in London.
The women’s national hockey team says it will boycott world championships unless U.S.A. Hockey increases their wages. Two weeks later, they reach a deal with the sport’s governing body.
Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim the English Channel, completing the feat nearly two hours faster than the men’s best time.
Althea Gibson becomes the first African American to win a Grand Slam event title with a victory in the French Championships (known now as the French Open).
Wilma Rudolph wins three Olympic gold medals (in the 100- and 200-meter events and the 4 x 100-meter relay) at the 1960 Summer Games, becoming the first American woman to win three golds at one Olympics.
Kathrine Switzer becomes the first woman to officially run in the all-male Boston Marathon. She uses an initial to register and finishes — despite an official who tries to rip off her bib number.
Billie Jean King defeats Bobby Riggs in tennis’ “Battle of the Sexes” before 90-million TV viewers.
Japan’s Junko Tabei becomes the first woman to summit Mt. Everest.
Shirley Muldowney becomes the first woman to win a National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel event. In 1980, she becomes the first driver to win two NHRA points titles.
Race-car driver Janet Guthrie becomes the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 as well as the Daytona 500.
Nancy Lopez is the only female golfer to win rookie of the year, player of the year and the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average in the same season.
Joan Benoit, at the Los Angeles Summer Games, wins the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon.
Victoria Roche becomes the first girl to play in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
Jockey Julie Krone becomes the first woman to win a Triple Crown horse race — the Belmont Stakes.
The NBA hires two female referees, Dee Kantner and Violet Palmer, the first to work regular-season games in a major men’s pro sports league.
The U.S. national soccer team wins the Women’s World Cup on a penalty kick by Brandi Chastain followed by an epic celebration.
Michelle Wie, 12, becomes the youngest golfer ever to qualify for an LPGA tournament.
Danica Patrick becomes the first woman to win an Indycar race, the Japan Indy 300.
Ronda Rousey is first female fighter to be signed by the UFC; the bantamweight champion sets a record for winning the most UFC title defenses — six — before losing in 2015.
Gabby Douglas becomes the first African American to win Olympic gold in the women’s all-around gymnastics finals.
Becky Hammon becomes the first woman to serve as a full-time assistant coach in the NBA, working for the San Antonio Spurs.
Sarah Thomas becomes the first full-time female official in NFL history.
Ibtihaj Muhammad becomes the first U.S. Olympic athlete to compete in a hijab. She wins a bronze medal in the team saber event.
Alysa Liu, 13, becomes the youngest U.S. figure skating champion, stealing the show with two triple axels. In January of this year, she successfully defends her national championship title, again landing two triple Axels. She also landed the first quadruple jump by a woman in U.S. nationals history.
Katie Sowers, the offensive assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers, will be the first female coach — and first openly gay coach — to participate in the Super Bowl.
American Babe Didrikson Zaharias wins two gold medals and one silver in track and field events at the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. She later wins 41 events in a golf career that lasts until 1955.
Pat Summitt becomes coach of the University of Tennessee’s Lady Vols basketball team and collects 1,098 wins — a women’s college basketball record — before retiring in 2012.
Nadia Comaneci, a 14-year-old Romanian, becomes the first gymnast to receive a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastics event. She went on to earn seven perfect scores at the Montreal Games.
Jackie Joyner-Kersee wins gold medals in the heptathlon and the long jump at the Summer Games in Seoul (she’d won a silver medal in the heptathlon in 1984).
Michelle Kwan, 20, the three-time world champion, wins her fourth straight U.S. figure skating championship and fifth overall.
Sweden’s Annika Sorenstam, 30, makes women’s golf history by shooting a 59 during an LPGA event. She wins eight times that season on the LPGA tour.
Tennis’ Serena Williams wins four straight Grand Slam event finals — the French Open, Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the Australian Open — defeating her sister, Venus, in the finals of all four.
Lindsey Vonn sets a U.S. record winning 10 World Cup downhill ski races. She wins the overall World Cup title that year — and the following two years.
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings win their third Olympic gold medal in the last game of their 11-year team career.
Serena Williams wins gold at the Summer Games in London in singles, and she and her sister team up for the gold in doubles.
Katie Ledecky wins her first Olympic gold medal—in the 800-meter freestyle.
Katie Ledecky wins four gold and one silver medal in the Summer Games in Rio. She’s won a total of 34 medals (28 golds) in major competitions worldwide.
Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. becomes the first skier to claim 17 World Cup wins in a single season.
Simone Biles, the AP female athlete of the year, becomes the most decorated American gymnast with a combined 30 Olympic and world championships.