Icons of Women's Sport

by Steven J. Overman and Kelly Boyer Sagert


Wilma Rudolph was born premature at only four and a half pounds, had polio, and with no hospitals in the area that would serve her, was told she would never walk again. Rudolph went on to win three Olympic gold medals in track and field events, and became known as the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s. Rudolph's story is just one of the many inspiring stories of great female athletes.

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Cover image for Icons of Women's Sport

February 2012


Pages 623
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics Popular Culture/Sports, Recreation, and Leisure

This collection of fascinating biographies of outstanding women athletes past and present including superstars such as Nadia Comaneci, Mia Hamm, Jackie-Joyner Kersee, Danica Patrick, and Serena and Venus Williams.

Icons of Women's Sport identifies and examines the individuals who have impacted history, challenged the status quo, influenced sport culture, and garnered wide public interest. Including stars from the past and present, ranging from Babe Didrikson Zaharias and Billie Jean King to Dara Torres and Venus and Serena Williams, the featured athletes are iconic not only because of their achievements in the sports arena, but also because of their contributions to society: advancing cultural diversity and gender equity, breaking class barriers, and transcending stereotypes.

The book contains biographies of 36 women athletes—American and international—who excelled in competitive sports from the post-World War I era through the modern era in a dozen different sports. Icons of Women's Sport spotlights athletes across a wide range of women's sports, with appropriate attention given to the major sports. Readers will enjoy learning about stars from both amateur and professional sports arenas, including Olympic athletes, as well as female competitors who have reached the top of their game in newer arenas such as golf and snowboarding.


  • Photographs of accomplished female athletes
  • A chronology helps readers put entries in context
  • A bibliography provides suggestions for further reading


  • Provides an introductory essay that documents the larger cultural impact and historical role that women have played in sports and through sports
  • Highlights a wide range of athletes hailing from poor and rich families, diverse ethnic backgrounds, some with supportive families, some with unsupportive families, etc
  • Includes a revealing and inspirational interview with Cara-Beth Burnside, gold medal winner in both the summer and winter X-Games
  • Examines how becoming a female athlete in the United States is relatively easy compared with dictatorial countries, and in contrast with how difficult it was in the past due to enduring prejudices, political issues, and financial reasons
Author Info

Steven J. Overman, PhD, is adjunct professor on the faculty of University of Central Oklahoma, Edmond, OK. He received his doctorate from Washington State University. His published works include Living Out of Bounds: The Male Athlete's Everyday Life and The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Sport: How Calvinism and Capitalism Shaped America's Games. Overman's writings have been published in the academic journals Auto/Biography and Sex Roles: A Journal of Research.

Kelly Boyer Sagert is a freelance writer and author. She has published numerous other books, including Greenwood's Joe Jackson: A Biography; The 1970s; Encyclopedia of Extreme Sports; and Flappers: A Guide to an American Subculture.



"This reference work provides new insights into the contributions and roles women have played in promoting sports. They will aid in research to those interested in sports history, women's history, and sociological studies."ARBA

"These valuable biographies emphasize the multiple contributions of female athletes and will appeal to individuals interested in sports, women's history, and sociology."Library Journal

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