7 History-Making Female Athletes You Need to Know About


In celebration of Women’s History Month, we share with you seven amazing female athletes who have kicked down glass ceilings and paved the way for active women.

1. Indra Devi- Yogi

Considered the mother of western yoga, Indra Devi broke the barrier of the historically male domain of yoga, becoming the first foreign woman among dedicated yogis in India in 1938. She met every challenge Krishnamacharya set out for her and was so successful that the guru asked her to work as a yoga teacher. She held the first yoga classes in China, opened a studio in Hollywood in the 1960s and later in Mexico and Argentina, where she died at the age of 102.

2. Lucy Diggs Slowe- Tennis Player

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Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Lucy Diggs Slowe pioneered many firsts for African American Women. In addition to founding Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first sorority founded by African-American women, she was also appointed the first Dean of Women at Howard University in 1922. In 1917, she became the first African-American woman to win a sports title in the American Tennis Association’s first tournament.

3. Patti McGee- Skateboarder

One of the first sponsored skateboarders was female! In the mid 1960s, Patti McGee was traveling doing exhibitions and quickly made the cover of LIFE magazine doing a handstand on a skateboard. She was the first woman to become a pro skateboarder, after winning the Women’s National Skateboard Championship, and was also the first woman to be voted into the IASC (International Association of Skateboard Companies) Skateboard hall of fame.

4. Junko Tabei- Climber

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 6.38.38 PMPhoto Credit: Creative Commons

After forming the Ladies Climbing Club: Japan in 1969, with the slogan “Let’s go on an overseas expedition by ourselves,” Tabei set off on Sir Edmund Hilary’s route of the first successful ascent of Everest set in 1953. Twelve days after surviving a loss  of consciousness in an avalanche, on May 16, 1975, she became the first woman in history to scale Mount Everest, the highest mountain on earth. Her triumph symbolized progress Japanese women in equality and freedom of choice.

5. Kathrine Switzer- Runner

Women were not allowed to complete in the Boston Marathon in 1967 when Katherine Switzer registered for the race under the gender-neutral name “K.V. Switzer.” During her run, the race director spotted her and tried tear off her number and drag her off the road screaming “Get the hell out of my race.” She dodged him and completed the marathon. Women were allowed to participate in the marathon five years later.

6. Violet Renice Palmer- Basketball Player
_MG_2587Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Palmer played on two NCAA Division II championship basketball teams before making history as the first woman to officiate an NBA playoff game in the April 25, 2006 match between the Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Nets.

7. Diana Nyad- Swimmer

Author, journalist and long distance, open water swimmer, Nyad is the first person—not man or woman—to swim from Cuba to Florida without a protective cage (you know, from jellyfish, sharks, and death). She made the attempt 5 times beginning in 2011 before succeeding on August 31, 2013, completing the 53 hour journey.

Who else do you think should be on the list? We’d love to hear. Tell us in the comments below!


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American Heavyweight

March 20, 2016 at 8:11 pm

You’ve included some real pioneers! Thank you for continuing to empower women and acknowledge the great athletes of the past!

women's activewear

March 29, 2016 at 10:15 am

Hi Team Athleta, Thanks for you which share and acknoledge some real pioneers of great womens athletes.

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