Babe Didrikson

Today’s athletes tend to focus on one sport in order to excel at it – Mildred (Babe) Didrikson Zaharias managed to excel at three diverse sports. Mildred was born in 1911 and would go on to claim that she earned the nickname ‘Babe’ because of the number of home runs she hit during a baseball game aged 4!

Babe’s basketball career began with her first job; she worked for an insurance company in Texas who also had an amateur basketball team. She was the star of this team and led them to success at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) in 1931. The following year she also competed at the event which served as a qualifying event for the upcoming Olympics. Babe excelled in the track and field events coming first in the 80 meter hurdles, the high jump and the javelin. She also won three other non-Olympic related events; ultimately she won the entire event for her company – despite the fact that she was the only member of the team!

Later that year at the Olympics held in Los Angeles she would cement her legacy. She competed in three events that year (80 meter hurdles, the javelin and the high jump) – at this time women were limited to competing in only three events. She won gold in the javelin and the hurdles, setting records along the way; she also won silver in the high jump after initially tying for first.

Her golf career began in 1935 and she competed in the Los Angeles Open in 1938 – this was a men’s event which gained her instant attention. (To put this moment into context, it was almost 60 years before another woman played in a men’s event). Over the next two decades she would go on to become one of the most famous women in America and by far the most successful female golfer winning ten major events including the U.S. Women’s Open three times.

Babe died in 1956 aged only 45, leaving behind her an incredible career and with a number of glass ceilings shattered.

-Michelle O’Brien
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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