I recently picked up the book Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History from the Middleton Public Library. Next to the gym, tennis courts and my own house, I visit the library quite often. I was perusing new books in the sports section and saw Game Changers. It almost jumped out at me. As a side note, I have always enjoyed reading sports biographies, especially when it’s a sport that I follow or have played myself. Not only do I enjoy the athlete’s/coach’s/team’s personal story (where they grew up, how they became interested in their sport, etc) but good authors often delve into the social, economic and political arenas as well. When I read the books Cinderella Man and Seabiscuit, both professional boxer James J. Braddock and racehorse Seabiscuit were seen as the unlikely underdogs who everyone cheered for during the Great Depression. To many people they represented the working man and uplifted them. In the double biography Sound and Fury, Howard Cosell’s and Muhammad Ali’s stories were quite similar and different at the same time. One white, the other black, one a Jew and the other Muslim. The Civil Rights Era was the perfect backdrop. In The Rivals, not only did we learn about professional tennis players Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, but the book also explored women’s rights, gay rights, and our view of Eastern Europe.
I was immediately intrigued after flipping through the first few pages of Game Changers. Each page shares an athlete or team, many of whom I had never heard of. And while reading a couple paragraphs doesn’t give the whole picture, I’m already making a list of whom I’d like to learn more. For example, did you know of Alice Marble, a professional tennis player who won eighteen Grand Slam championships, (I should know this, right?) and was also recruited by the American intelligence to work as a spy during World War II? Or how about Alison Jane Hargreaves, the first climber to solo all six of the great North faces of the Alps in a single season? Or Jutta Kelinschmidt, who became the first (and only) woman and only German national driver to win the Paris-Dakar rally in the car category? Or Wilma Rudolph (yes, I have heard of her) who became the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympics? Makes you want to read this book, right? It’s definitely not a quick read as hundreds of athletes are depicted in different eras and different sports. Author Molly Schiot did extensive research to put this book together. It’s inspiring, educational and gives a glimpse into the lives of women athletes from around the world.