Babe Didrikson Zaharias - Inductee

1911 - 1956

Babe Didrikson’s contributions to women’s competitive athletics were unprecedented. She held national, Olympic and World records in track and field; led her team to two national championships in basketball; toured with all-male exhibition baseball teams; competed admirably in swimming, diving and bowling; and was the largest money winner in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) during her lifetime. At the 1932 Olympics, she entered three events (the limit for women at the time) and won two gold-medals plus a “gold-silver” medal in the high-jump – the only one awarded in Olympic history. Because of her androgynous look and rough manners, she was hounded by vicious press that labeled her a “Third Sex,” and a “muscle moll.” She loathed these charges and manipulated the media to reconstruct her image as she saw fit. Didrikson married professional wrestler George Zaharias in 1938. When she met a young golfer named Betty Dodd in 1950 they also became emotionally and physically intimate. The three lived together from 1950-56 in a tense, strained, and awkward liaison – a public life engineered to insulate a private one in which Didrikson and Dodd were the actual “couple.” Didrikson retreated from the more “masculine” sports of track and field to the acceptably feminine – and upper-middle class – world of golf. She joined with five other women to found the LPGA, and continued to dominate amateur and professional women’s golf for 18 years, winning most major titles – including 13 consecutive tournaments – and the first British Women’s Amateur Championship (1947). She was voted “Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year” – six times – as well as “Woman Athlete of the Half-Century”. An uncompromising competitor, she believed in winning at all costs and sacrificed her body to do so. Her greatest challenge was her fight against colon cancer, which she lost on September 27, 1956, at the age of 45, with Dodd at her side. Babe Didrikson’s extraordinary combination of fierce competitiveness and unwavering discipline in the pursuit of athletic perfection emboldened many women athletes to defy convention and redefine female athletic “norms,” preparing the way for Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova who would follow her a generation later.

Lesson Plans
Babe Didrikson Zaharias Bronze Memorial

Plaque Sponsor

Laura Angelucci and Jennifer Baker; Pslam One and Fluffy; Vic Richards, Chris Pritchard, Michael Shields and The Highfield Group

Demography

Gender Female

Sexual Orientation Bisexual

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Nations Affiliated United States

Field(s) of Contribution

Athletics

Commemorations & Honors

10th Greatest North American Athlete of the 20th Century by ESPN

9th Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century by the Associated Press

Multiple Years LPGA Tournament Winner

Two Time Olympic Gold Medalist for Track and Field (1932)

World Golf Hall of Fame Inductee (1951)

Babe Zaharias Open Named After Her (1953-1967)

LPGA Vare Trophy (1954)

Posthumous Bob Jones Award by the United States Golf Association (1957)

Posthumous National Women's Hall of Fame Inductee (1976)

Posthumous LPGA Hall of Fame Inductee at its Inception (1977)

Commemorative U.S. Postage Stamp (1981)

Resources

Related Images

Babe Didrikson Zaharias Bronze Casting Image

Babe Didrikson Zaharias Playing Basketball

Babe Didrikson Zaharias Throwing Javelin

Babe Didrikson Zaharias Playing Golf

Babe Didrikson Zaharias With Trophy

Related Videos

Babe Didrikson, 50 Greatest Athletes, ESPN SportsCentury

Babe Didrikson Zaharias Compilation Clips

Authorship

Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Biography Vetted, Edited, and Certified By
Dr. Susan Cayleff
San Diego State University
Image Rights Usage Granted By
Lamar Univeristy Archives Babe Didrikson Zaharias Collection
Image Source for Bronze Casting
Lamar Univeristy Archives Babe Didrikson Zaharias Collection
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell