Women's Olympic History - 1932
Updated: Feb 11
1932 Olympics, Los Angeles, California
Enter the greatest all-around athlete of the 20th century, Babe Didrikson. Babe won two gold medals (80m hurdles and javelin throw) and silver (high jump). In the hurdles, it was a dead tie but Babe famously declared herself the winner. The second place winner, Evelyne Hall, felt she won, even pointing that she had the rope mark on her neck. Both were timed at 11.7 seconds, which set a world record. In the high jump, Babe actually tied for first in high jump but because she used the same style that the men did (considered “diving” or a “western roll” instead of the scissor kick), they give her 2nd place. She jumped this way the entire competition and the judges never said it would affect her placement.
Babe is known as the top all-around athlete of the 20th century. In order to qualify for the Olympics, Babe competed in the AAU competition as a one-woman team. There, she won the entire competition and beat the next best team which had 22 competitors. She won five out of the eight events she entered. While she qualified for five events in the Olympics, she could only enter three. In 1950 she became one of the cofounders of the LPGA. She died at the age of 45 due to colon cancer.
Of all eight track and field events, the US won gold in every event except the 100m.
In the 100m, Stella Walsh (pictured) won gold. Stella had an amazing story. Though she was living in the US, she was still a Polish citizen and Poland offered her free schooling and the ability to compete in the Olympics. She returned to Poland and won gold. Her story doesn’t stop there though. She returned to the US and later, in 1980, was killed in a robbery. Her autopsy results were leaked because of the sensational discovery that she was intersex. Many people feel her records should be expunged.
In swimming, American Helene Madison (pictured) won three gold medals (100, 400 and 4 x 100 freestyle relay).
In Diving, women continued in the 3m spring board and 10m platform. This time, Americans won every medal in both competitions (with Dorothy Poynton winning gold in platform - read 1928’s entry).
Due to the Great Depression, nearly half of the countries that attended the ’28 Olympics were not able to pay for their travel. The percentage of female participants did not grow from 1928 – it was still nearly 10%. Despite the hard financial times, this was the first Olympics that incorporated the Olympic Village, yet it was only open to the men. The women were hosted in a local hotel. For their $2/day, they had a shared room, transportation to and from the Olympic stadium, meals, and laundry facilities. The men paid the same but were served meals similar to their home country vs the American menu that was served to all women.
The 1932 Games were also the first time that they utilized a press box and created the three tiered podium levels for awarding the bronze, silver and gold medals.