Thursday, August 16, 2007

On Your Marks - My Track Story

Being a female born in 1946, there were not many athletic opportunities open to me as I grew to adulthood. Well, at least there were not many institutionalized competitive chances. Unlike the girls of today, the young girls in the fifties did not play soccer, softball, volleyball, baseball, or basketball. Maybe we were fortunate to have coeducational gym classes at my elementary school; but in later years, the boys were separated from the girls in my junior high and high school physical education classes. The athleticism in my high school gym class consisted of the class of girls walking the circumference of the Girl's Gymnasium while being encouraged by our teacher to walk briskly, to throw out our chests, and to move our arms enthusiastically.

I am not a picture of athletic prowess, but as a child I could run fast and seemingly fly over the high jump bar. In kindergarten, my teacher said that I was the best skipper in class. Now, granted this was kindergarten, and maybe the teacher was being kind and found something for each child to excel in or be best at doing.

But on with my track story...in third grade, the activity for one period was to run the 60 yard dash as our teacher timed our speed. All 37 children in our class ran the sixty yards while being timed by our teacher, Miss Spangle. After everyone was finished running, Miss Spangle announced all of student's times except mine. To top this off, she exclaimed that "Michael Haines with the best time is the fastest runner in the class," and of course, the class cheered. Then, my teacher took me aside and told me quietly and privately that she had not announced my time as I ran faster than Michael. She continued that my score was not announced as we would not want Michael to feel badly that he was beat by a girl.

The sad part of that story was not that the teacher lied or that I was cheated out of the brief moment of glory of being the fastest runner in class. The sad part of the story is that I thought the teacher was right, "We would not want Michael to feel badly being outrun by a girl." The good news is times have changed. In today's world, young girls have open to them a wide range of athletic events including softball, basketball, swimming, golf, tennis, gymnastics as well as track. You go girls.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yeah for progress! Your wee little grand-daughter is about to start soccer in a few weeks at just 2 1/2 yrs old. This would make a great memory to put together with others so she can see how wonderful her grandmother is and where she probably gets her speed. See you soon.
PAD

ChrisB said...

Do you know as I read this I just knew you were going to say something along those lines. I'm only a couple of years older than you and I can still remember being told that if I did not pass the exams to get into grammar school I would have to take pot luck at local crap school (most kids left school at 15 with no qualifications from this school); on the other hand my brother (3 yrs younger) was told if he didn't pass he would be sent to a private fee paying school as a good education was important for boys. Thank goodness those days are over :) PS it was Ok I passed and went on to be a nurse which was my ambition and this was followed by other qualifications- my brother well he actually didn't get any qualifications!

Tanya Brown said...

The other sad news? As recently as high school in 1981-82, I was kept out of a regional science competition in favor of a boy, even though I had scored higher than him on the qualifying exam. Things didn't get much better when I entered the workplace, either.

I hope things truly have changed, and that younger women will have opportunities we didn't.

Karmyn R said...

OH - this just burns me up.

I am glad I have grown up in a time where there is more equality. Okay - it still isn't perfect, but I'll take what I've got.

susan said...

Did you just hear my chin drop to the floor?

I've known about inequality, but...WOW...I sure am glad times have changed.

Margaret said...

So, you are a FAST woman, huh? I always tell people that I'm not very athletic, yet I didn't get many chances growing up. We had a girls' basketball team at my school; that was it. All my brothers were extremely athletic, thus I suspect I would have been too, if given the opportunity.

Beccy said...

In the 1980's we (girls) weren't allowed to play football (soccer) or rugby at school due to our gender. We were told that the school couldn't get the insurance for girls!

I love that my daughter now plays football!

Sunshine said...

I'm so mad at your teacher because I too was a fast runner who could keep up with or beat the boys in a foot race. But they didn't do anything to protect boys from feeling bad about getting beaten by girls in the 70s. This was a great story, and a wonderful piece of history of "feminism".

Next time I'm in Indiana, we're racing! :)

daddy d said...

She is fast. Even to this day she is ahead of me as we walk down to the black top.

Willowtree said...

So she didn't want to hurt the little boy's feelings, but she could walk all over yours! Ah, the good old days, boy I sure do miss them.

LizB said...

Terrific post, Robin! Incidentally, my grandmother, who is now almost 92, was a guard on one of the first women's high school basketball teams. She lettered and even made All-State back in the 30s. Sadly, I didn't inherit her athletic prowess, but she inspires me anyway. Girl power!

Biddie said...

Thank goodness that times have changed!
18 years ago, when I got my first full time job, I was paid less than a male employee, even though we had the same job. He never did any of the work, left all of the heavy lifting for me, and yet, he was paid more, because he was 'a man.'
I sure don't miss those days!

Pamela said...

arrrgh.

Pamela said...

my story: I was working in brokerage industry (80's) and was licensed. Offered to get licensed as a Registered Options principal so there would be compliance.

Boss said he would think about it.

A week later he took me to lunch and said he was going to have a guy do it because it was more important for his future than for mine.

Gretchen said...

It's so sad that women were treated that way. Heaven help a teacher if she tried that today. :) Good for you for beating that boy.

goldennib said...

This would be funny if it weren't so true and sad. Imagine all of the stifled talent of the past. Thank goodness our daughters have it better in so many ways.

Jen said...

It is amazing how much things have changed. I used to play hockey on a boys team when I was a girl because there just weren't any girls' hockey teams around back then. Now both the U.S. and Canada have female hockey Olympic teams.

We still have a ways to go, especially in the workplace, but we're getting there!

her indoors said...

its unbeleivable really how the world was geared for boys! can you imagine what the outcome would be if she did this today!!!

gawilli said...

How unfortunate that previous generations of young women were made to endure this kind of thing, and how fortunate that times are changing. In a more perfect world, ability would be the measure for promotion and accomplishment for everyone. It is equally as important for women who rise to positions of power to remember from whence they came and see that the same disastrous thing does not happen to others.

captain corky said...

I'm a really slow runner, but aint no woman ever going to beat me in a race. ;)

I wouldn't mind being ref when you race Sunshine though.

Isabelle said...

That is an amazing story!

mjd said...

Ah, friends I am amazed by the variety of responses to this entry.

PAD - I cannot wait to see our sweet one in the soccer uniform. She sure can run.

Chris - I am glad that things worked out for you. My older sister, who became a nurse too, was discouraged from taking physics in high school as that was for boys.

Tanya - Things have changed, but the situation still can improve.

Beccy - I love that your daughter plays football too. My granddaughter is about to start soccer.

Sunshine - You are on. Corky has agreed to be our referee.

mjd said...

Liz B - Did your grandma play basketball in Iowa? I understand that Iowa is the premier state for girl's basketball.

Biddie - Times have changed, but I understand women are still paid less than men. But the gap is closing.

WT and Gretchen - Miss Spangle was not one of my favorite teachers.

mjd said...

Pamela - And the boss probably thought that he was being a nice guy taking you to lunch...Sheesh.

Goldennib - During track season, I enjoy telling this story to my seventh grade students even the boys are amazed that the teacher did this.

Jen - We are getting there.

mjd said...

Gawilli - You are right. People in power should always remember the struggles that it took to get there.

Corky - Thanks for the offer to referee the BIG RACE.