The first modern Olympics were held in 1896. Women runners, though? They weren’t called to the starting line until 1928. After made-up reports of women collapsing after the 800 meters, track and field’s governing body eliminated the event after just one try—a change that lasted until 1960.
It wasn’t the first, and certainly not the last time the story of women’s running was twisted, and athletes’ voices lost.
Running fans will know some of the stories of women pioneers in the sport: Bobbi Gibb, Joan Benoit, Kathrine Switzer, Wilma Rudolph, and the like. But there are so many more women we don’t hear about at all—and certainly not straight from their own mouths.
Until now. Welcome to Starting Line 1928, an oral history project dedicated to documenting the stories of women’s running pioneers, in their own voices.
In this feed, you’ll hear interviews with women who have made significant contributions to running before the mid-1990s, or who stand out in other ways—such as being the first to compete in the steeplechase. You’ll see a special emphasis on Black women and other runners of color, whose stories have frequently been overlooked. You’ll learn about their victories, and their struggles, large and small—against forces as huge as sexism and racism and as mundane as a lack of women’s running shoes and sports bras.
Our interviewers are freelance historians, called together as a collective to continue work begun in 2013 by Amy Yoder Begley and Gary Corbitt. Our goal is to preserve the voices of these women while they’re still here to share them—and to raise awareness of their contributions among the next generation of athletes.