Today, there are women athletes who are media celebrities and a source of inspiration for many. But not long ago, being serious about sport was considered appropriate only for men and boys. Throughout the twentieth century, women's increasing participation in sport has challenged our conception of womanhood. Some celebrated the female athlete as the embodiment of modern womanhood, but others branded her "mannish" or lesbian. Ultimately, she altered the perception of sport as an exclusively male domain.
Susan Cahn's story of how sport has changed women's lives and women have transformed sport is an important chapter in the wider history of women's struggles to define their role in the twentieth century. For the women who dared to compete, participation in sport enabled them to expand the boundaries of women's activities and to claim that strength, skill, physicality, and competitiveness could be authentic attributes of womanhood. This is the legacy they passed on to the new generation of women for whom athleticism is becoming a way of life.
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Susan K. Cahn is Associate Professor of History, State University of New York, Buffalo.Review:
Coming on Strong is both a serious study of women in sport and a wonderful story to read. Susan Cahn provides not only a brilliant analysis of gender and sexuality, but also a captivating narrative of the spunky and talented women who entered this "toughest" of male bastions. A great read for scholar and fan alike! (Elaine Tyler May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era University of Minnesota)
With meticulous research and eloquent prose, Susan Cahn unveils a largely hidden history of female athleticism in the United States. Cahn's careful attention to the complex interactions of race, class, sexuality, and gender shows how, for the past century, sport has been a key site within which cultural conceptions of masculinity and "femininity" have been constructed, re-constructed, and contested. (Michael A. Messner, author of Power at Play: Sports and the Problem of Masculinity)
[This book] is already achieving the stature of a "classic" in sports history and will soon, in my judgment, be accorded a similar place in women's history. (Benjamin G. Rader University of Nebraska, Lincoln)
[A] pioneering study. (Ian Tyrrell Journal of American History)
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