At the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam, Betty Robinson, a seventeen-year-old student from Chicago, won a gold medal in the inaugural offering of women’s track and field. Three years later as she prepared to defend her title at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, she was in a plane crash and believed to be dead until the mortician noticed her breathing and she was revived. Doctors told Robinson she’d be lucky to walk again and advised her to give up her Olympic aspirations. Yet at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, she was back on the podium with another gold medal.
Betty Robinson represents one of many fascinating but overlooked pioneering women Olympians. In this talk, author Elise Hooper separates fact from fiction to uncover the progress and setbacks faced by women Olympians since they first began competing in 1900.
Elise Hooper (she/her) spent several years writing for television and online news outlets before getting a Master of Arts and teaching high-school literature and history. Her debut novel The Other Alcott was a nominee for the 2017 Washington Book Award. Three more novels—Learning to See, Fast Girls, and Angels of the Pacific—followed, all centered on the lives of extraordinary but overlooked historical women.
Hooper lives in Seattle.