fearless females of sports
Talent & Ability
Resilient, noble, strong, determined, passionate, brave and memorable are just a few words that describe some of the women to whom we give the title “Fearless Females.” There are several women in professional sports who are fearless in their pursuit of perfection in their chosen sport. They serve as role models to young women and men, of how women can and do prevail against odds, oppositions, and personal obstacles.
This page captures only a few “Fearless Females of Sports” who are great examples of excellence in their chosen sports. As we progress, we will continue to highlight women in sports who are helping to push the envelope and redefining possible.
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Patricia Palinkas is the first woman to play American football professionally with men. She was a holder for her husband Stephen Palinkas on the Orlando Panthers. Her first game was August 15, 1970 against the Bridgeport Jets with twelve thousand fans. On her first play, Palinkas was attacked by Jets defenseman Wally Florence, who said “I tried to break her neck. She’s out here prancing around making folly with a man’s game.” His attempt at punishment was unsuccessful. Palinkas went on to appear four more times with three consecutive successful extra-point kicks, and a field goal attempt that was blocked. The Panthers would end up winning the game 26-7. She was invited to appear on Walter Cronkite’s CBS Evening News, The Merv Griffin Show, What’s My Line?, To Tell the Truth and a local radio talk show, where she’d call in and give NFL predictions. She was also interviewed with Howard Cosell the first year that Monday Night Football came out. At the time people were afraid that women weren’t going to watch Monday Night Football. Well, we know better, don’t we?
Senda Berenson Abbott was born in 1868 and was called “The Mother of Women’s Basketball.” In 1899, Senda was the director of physical education at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts where she incorporated the same concepts James Naismith had developed for men into an exercise regime for her all-female classes. Berenson was the first person to introduce and adapt rules for women’s basketball. She divided the court into three sections and required players to stay in their assigned section because back then women were thought to frail to play competitive contact games. She sat on the Women’s Basketball Committee for twelve years and was the author of the first Basketball Guide for Women and continued to edit her rules guidebook throughout her life. She was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1987, and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.
Billie Jean King: We all know Venus and Serena, but do you know Billie Jean? The infamous “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973 made Billie Jean King a pop-culture icon, but her career makes her an immortal in tennis lore. The California Girl won 12 Grand Slam singles titles from 1966-1975, making her one of seven women to have ever won at least 10 of those crowns. She won all four of the Grand Slam tournaments at least once, including six
titles at Wimbledon. Her 27 additional Grand Slam doubles and mixed doubles championships leave a legacy rivaled by few players of any sex. Oh, and she also established the Women’s Tennis Association. #FearlessFemales
Helen Hicks was an American professional golfer who started her career in sports in basketball for her high school’s team while simultaneously competing and winning such tournaments as the Junior Girls’ Championship of the Metropolitan Women’s Golf Association. She had a successful amateur career, reaching the finals of the U.S. Women’s Amateur twice. She won several amateur tournaments and played on the first U.S. Curtis Cup team in 1932. Hicks became one of the first women to turn professional in 1934 and signed with the Wilson Sporting Goods Company to promote their golf equipment. She won the 1937 Women’s Western Open and the 1940 Titleholders Championship and became one of 13 founders of the LPGA in 1950.
Briana Scurry, soccer starting goalkeeper on the U.S. women’s soccer team has been called the “Jackie Robinson” of soccer. She was the only African American starter and is currently an assistant coach of the Washington Spirit. She won the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics and won the 1999 World Cup championship. In the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, she won the gold medal. She was a founding member of the Women’s United Soccer Association, the world’s first women’s professional association football league. Briana was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame on August 3, 2017. She was the first woman goalkeeper and first black woman to be awarded the honor.
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