“Babe” Didrikson

Mildred_DidriksonMildred “Babe” Didrikson (1913-1956) was one of the most celebrated female athletes of the first half of the twentieth century. Competing in the 1930s and 1940s, when conventional attitudes regarding women’s participation in sport dominated North American culture, Babe Didrikson rose to fame by dominating not just one, but a number of sports.  

Didrikson flouted conventional notions of femininity and “proper” female activity by excelling in field events such as javelin and shot-put, in addition to traditionally male-dominated sports such as baseball, swimming, and golf. Interestingly, Didrikson would always have to battle popular accounts that attacked or questioned her femininity and sexuality. As a woman with a large, muscular and athletic body, Didrikson was often accused of having an “unfair advantage” over other women, and often regarded as not being a “real woman.”  

Born in the state of Texas, Didrikson rose to athletic fame quickly, representing the U.S.A. in the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles where she won and set records in the javelin and 80 metre hurdles. Later in her career, Didrikson turned her athletic attention mainly to golf, a sport in which she was immensely successful. Interestingly, however, Didrikson tired of the popular innuendo regarding her “unfeminine” appearance and made a conscious effort to change her image in favour of a more traditionally feminine one: she donned dresses and make-up in place of her sweat pants and makeupless appearance.  

Didrikson’s controversial career underwent a twist when she fought the American Athletic Union (AAU), which had stripped her of her amateur sports status after she allowed her image to be used in endorsements for cars. When offered amateur status reinstatement, Didrikson refused, challenging what she believed to be the AAU’s antiquated rules and regulations.  

Aside from her incredible athletic accomplishments, Didrikson is an important historical figure because of the challenge she made to the male-dominated institution of sport. Didrikson challenged those within the institution of sport to question gender values at a time when the political environment made it difficult to do so. Didrikson prefigured by several decades the challenges to sport made by other female athletes such as Billie Jean King, Martine Navratilova, and Florence Griffith Joyner. Didrikson forced a re-examination of the meaning of sports, making many aware of the social and political importance of an institution typically not thought of as such.

1 thought on ““Babe” Didrikson

  • celebrated

    a celebrated actress
    a celebrated legal case
    Venice is celebrated for its beautiful buildings.
    Molana is a celebrated poet in the U.S.



    always following the behaviour and attitudes that most people in a society consider to be normal, right, and socially acceptable, so that you seem slightly boring : 
    a strong believer in conventional morals
    conventional in
    He is conventional in his approach to life.



    1 [ not in progressive ]   to think about someone or something in a particular way
    regard somebody/something as something
    Paul seemed to regard sex as sinful and immoral.
    Edith was  widely regarded as  (= considered by many people to be )  eccentric.
    His work is  highly regarded  (= regarded as very good )  by art experts.

    2 formal   to look at someone or something, in a particular way : 
    She stood back and regarded him coldly.



    to be larger and more noticeable than anything else in a place : 
    The cathedral dominates the city.


    to deliberately disobey a law, rule etc, without trying to hide what you are doing
    Some companies flout the rules and employ children as young as seven. deliberately/openly flout something
    The union had openly flouted the law.
    No one can flout the rules and get away with it.
    he flouted the conventions of his society  
    you can’t flout the laws  
    he flouted my advice


    qualities that are considered to be typical of women, especially qualities that are gentle, delicate, and pretty
    ᅳsee also masculinity

    You don’t have to lose your femininity to be an independent, successful woman.



    past tense and past participle excelled present participle excelling

    to do something very well, or much better than most people
    excel at/in
    Rick has always excelled at foreign languages.
    the Italians excelled in music and the Dutch in painting  
    my uncle excelled over everyone else in intelligence  
    When it comes to singing, she really excels.
    He’s never excelled at sports. (=isn’t very good at them)
    What a marvelous meal, Jim! You’ve really excelled yourself. (=done even better than usual)

    field event

    a sport such as jumping or throwing the javelin in an outdoor competition


    a long stick with a pointed end, thrown as a sport
    the javelin
    a sports event in which competitors throw a javelin


    a written or spoken report; description: Give us your/an account of what happened.
    a detailed account of the proceedings.
    He is a very good pianist, by all accounts. (=according to what everyone says)


    the things people do, think, and feel that are related to their sexual desires
    male/female sexuality
    a study of male sexuality

    unfair advantage

    Companies that receive government subsidies have an unfair advantage .


    to consider in the stated way:
    I have always regarded him highly/with the greatest admiration.
    She is generally regarded as one of the best writers in the country.
    We regard these developments with grave concern.

    Common Error

    He is generally regarded to be one of the world’s finest physicists.
    He is generally regarded as one of the world’s finest physicists.

    regard a person or thing as (being) something, NOT to be


    the 100 metres/400 metres hurdles

    a race in which the runners have to jump over hurdles


    very much; to a great degree
    ᅳsynonym extremely

    Champagne wines became immensely popular in the 18th century.
    immensely powerful/strong/important etc
    Nationalism is an immensely powerful force.
    We enjoyed the play immensely.
    I enjoyed it immensely.
    immensely rich/popular


    a remark that suggests something unpleasant or disapproving without saying it directly

    His writing is full of sexual innuendoes.
    a campaign based on rumour, innuendo, and gossip


    past tense and past participle donned present participle donning

    opposite doff
    to put on a hat, coat etc
    I donned my academic robes

    in place of somebody/something
    also in somebody’s/something’s place

    instead of someone or something else
    In place of our advertised programme, we will have live coverage of the special memorial service.
    The company flag had been taken down and in its place hung the Union Jack.
    If I refused to go, they would send someone else in my place.

    causing a lot of disagreement, because many people have strong opinions about the subject being discussed
    the controversial issue of welfare reform
    a highly controversial (=very controversial) plan to flood the valley in order to build a dam
    He is a controversial figure (=person who does controversial things) in the art world.
    controversial speech/decision/politician/book


    past tense underwent  -past participle undergone

    to experience (esp. something unpleasant, unwelcome, or difficult):

    She’s undergoing treatment at the hospital.
    The company has undergone some major changes in the last five years.
    The country has undergone massive changes recently.
    He has been released from prison to undergo medical treatment in the United States.
    She has been undergoing tests since Monday.
    Teachers should be expected to undergo mid-career training and development.

    an unexpected feature or change in a situation or series of events

    a new/cruel/unexpected/strange etc twist
    The robbery took a deadly new twist as the robber pulled out a gun.
    an unexpected twist in the plot

    By an amazing twist of fate , we met again in Madrid five years later.
    By a strange twist of fate they both died of the same disease.
    There’s an unusual twist at the end of the book — the detective is murdered.

    a twist/quirk of fate (=something unexpected that happens)

    strip somebody  of something   phrasal verb

    to take away something important from someone as a punishment, for example their title, property, or power : 
    Captain Evans was found guilty and stripped of his rank.


    if a famous person endorses a product or service, they say in an advertisement that they use and like it

    ᅳendorsement noun 



    old-fashioned and not suitable for modern needs or conditions – used to show disapproval
    ᅳsynonym outdatedantiquated laws


    an official rule or order
    There seem to be so many rules and regulations these days.
    regulation on
    new regulations on imports
    regulations governing the safety of toys
    building/planning/fire/health regulations
    The local authority is introducing new planning regulations.
    All companies must comply with the regulations.
    under … regulations
    Under the new regulations, all staff must have safety training.

    aside from somebody/something

    especially American English
    a) except for
    Aside from Durang’s performance, the actors are ordinary.
    b) in addition to
    In the poetry competition, aside from Hass, are four other entrants.


    infml wonderful; so good that it is hard to believe:
    She has an incredible house!
    extremely good, large, or great
    ᅳsynonym unbelievableThe view is just incredible.
    There was blood everywhere and the pain was incredible.



    to have or express doubts about:

    I would never question his honesty/his ability.
    I question whether this policy will be effective.
    I question why he did that.


    the fact of being male or female

    people of the same gender
    Discrimination on grounds of race or gender is forbidden.
    There may be gender differences in attitudes to paid work.
    traditional gender roles
    gender biases in books
    toys that do not reinforce gender stereotypes
    a science fiction story dealing with gender issues

    to be a sign that something will happen later


    the process of looking at something carefully in order to see what it is like

    examination of
    a detailed examination of population statistics
    under examination
    The proposals are still under examination.
    The issues need further examination .
    on examination
    On closer examination the vases were seen to be cracked.

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