1st Edition

Britain’s Olympic Women A History

By Jean Williams Copyright 2021
    368 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    368 Pages 21 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Britain has a long and distinguished history as an Olympic nation. However, most Olympic histories have focused on men’s sport. This is the first book to tell the story of Britain’s Olympic women, how they changed Olympic spectacle and how, in turn, they have reinterpreted the Games.

    Exploring the key themes of gender and nationalism, and presenting a wealth of new empirical, archival evidence, the book explores the sporting culture produced by British women who aspired to become Olympians, from the early years of the modern Olympic movement. It shines new light on the frameworks imposed on female athletes, individually and as a group, by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the British Olympic Association (BOA) and the various affiliated sporting international federations. Using oral history and family history sources, the book tells of the social processes through which British Olympic women have become both heroes and anti-heroes in the public consciousness. Exploring the hidden narratives around women such as Charlotte Cooper, Lottie Dod, Audrey Brown and Pat Smythe, and bringing the story into the modern era of London 2012, Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson, the book helps us to better understand the complicated relationship between sport, gender, media and wider society.

    This is fascinating reading for anybody with an interest in sport history, Olympic history, women’s history, British history or gender studies.

    Introduction: Britain and The Olympic Movement

    1          British Olympic Pioneers 1900-1912: Chattie, Lottie and Jennie

    2          The Olympic Inter-War Revival and the British Olympic Association: Gladys Carson and the 1924 Paris Games

    3          The First All-Female British Olympic Team at Lake Placid, USA in 1932: Mollie, Joan, Cecilia, and Megan

    4          The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games: How Gender and Politics Shaped the Career of Athlete Audrey Brown

    5          Austerity and the Second London Olympic Games in 1948:  How Margaret Wellington Swam to Fame as ‘The Peppy Kid’

    6          Elizabeth II, Britain and Olympic Cold War Rivalries: Equestrian Pat Smythe and the New Elizabethans 1952-1960

    7          Britain’s Olympic Golden Girls and The Changing Media Industry 1964-1984: The Decline of Amateurism and The Rise of Sports Medicine

    8          Olympic Legacies: Lottery Funding, Professional Sport, Diversity and Fame


    Appendix 1     Great British Female Team at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria and the 1964 Summer Olympic Games, Tokyo

    Appendix 2     Great British Olympic Women’s Team at the 1968 Mexico Summer Olympic Games and the Grenoble Winter Games

    Appendix 3     Great Britain’s Female Team at the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany and the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan

    Appendix 4     Great Britain’s Female Team at the 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montréal, Canada and the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria

    Appendix 5     Great Britain’s Female Team at the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow, USSR and the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, USA

    Appendix 6     Great Britain’s Female Team at the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, USA and the 1984 Winter Olympics


    Jean Williams is Professor of Sport at the Institute of Sport and Human Sciences, University of Wolverhampton, UK. She is also Non Executive Director at The Silverstone Motor Sport Museum.

    "Gender is one such way what the Olympics represents is challenged, Jean Williams’ pioneering Britain’s Olympic Women is of the ‘hidden from history’ feminist tradition of uncovering those whom otherwise would be forgotten."
    -Mark Perryman, Philosophy Football

    "I can warmly recommend this book to all sporting people and researchers for the author’s new histories of female heroes and anti-heroes, based on her extensive sources and creative writing."

    - Gerd von der Lippe, University of South-Eastern Norway

    "This is a fine book that should be of interest to both the general reader and specialist. It is organized by chapters with notes at the end of each and affords anyone interested in a particular time period excellent places to begin following their own threads to learn more." - Wanda Ellen Wakefield, SUNY