Jeffrey Cooper, Mayor of Culver City (via)
Merry Lepper, in 1963 a student at San Bernardino Valley College (via), is often referred to as the first woman who completed a marathon race (Culver City Marathon in December 1963 finished in 3:37:07). At that time, women were not allowed to run more than 880 meters, for their own good, since running longer distances "would hurt their ovaries". Her training partner Lyn Carman was warned that she would never have babies again. Lepper comments: "I really had to laugh about that because I was hearing the reason that men gave that women couldn't drive automobiles in Saudi Arabia was that it would hurt their ovaries. Whose ovaries are these?" (via)
20-year old Merry jogging accompanied bei training partner Lyn Carman, watched by two of Lyn's children.
Merry Lepper ran the marathon to show the world that "women can do this without dying or fainting or something." But the world did not pay much attention to her achievement (via). There were no retrospective stories, no tributes (via). Some sarcastically assume the world was still too focused on her ovaries (via). Her achievement, however, was an important one considering the fact that women "could legally vote in presidential elections long before they could officially enter a marathon." (via)
In March 1896, during the Summer Olympics, Stamata Revithi ran from Marathon to Athens, unofficially, since officially she was not allowed to compete (via). According to Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the visionary of the modern Olympic Games, contact with women's athletics was bad for male athletes and a woman's greatest achievement would be "to encourage her sons to be distinguished in sports and to applaud a man's effort." (via). In September 1918, Marie-Louise Ledru completed the Tour de Paris Marathon (via). In October 1926, Violet Stewart Louisa Piercy became the first woman to be officially timed in a marathon. 37 years later Merry Lepper followed into these pioneers' footsteps (via). No matter who gets the credit for being the first woman, each made a great contribution.
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follow up posting: Bobbi Gibb