I’m not a runner, so I’ll never run a marathon, but I definitely have the competition gene. I can relate to people who push themselves to do hard things, like run a 26+ mile race.

This morning, as I read about the recent 100th running of the Boston Marathon, I was reminded of Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 competed in the 71st Boston Marathon, “illegally,” because women were barred from entry. A junior at Syracuse University who loved running, she craftily registered as K. Switzer.

Kathrine’s running partners were Arnie Briggs, manager of the Syracuse men’s track team, and her boyfriend Tom Miller, an ex-All American football player. The crowd, delighted to see a girl running with the men, at first cheered her on. But when the trio ran past the press truck, and video of Kathrine was captured, the manager of the race, who was on the truck, blew a gasket. He climbed down, ran after her, grabbed and yelled at her, and tried to rip her number (261) off her jersey. In one of the greatest examples of men supporting women, Tom Miller swept in, blocked the guy, and sent him to the curb instead. Kathrine finished the race in four hours and twenty minutes.

How do I know all of this? Because it’s the opening story in the fantastic PBS documentary, “Makers: Women Who Make America (Part 1).” The program, produced by WETA-TV in 2013, and narrated by Meryl Streep, is a little under 58 minutes long. I’ve viewed it many times.* Kathrine’s story always bring me to tears.

With remarkable vintage visuals and thoughtful commentary, MAKERS details the struggle for women’s equality in the United States during the last five decades of the 20th century. Part I, “Awakening,” covers the 1950s and 60s. Part II, “Changing the World,” covers the sexual revolution of the 1970s. Part III, “Charting a New Course,” ends in the 1980s and 90s with a look at issues facing women in the workforce, violence against women, the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination, and sexual harassment.

The Wikipedia entry for this series told me the documentary is linked to, a collaborative project between PBS and AOL featuring videos of hundreds of women who contributed to the struggle for women’s equality in the United States. I plan to dig in.

The issue of the New York Times that reported on this year’s Boston Marathon also contained a story about my fellow Iowan Caitlin Clark who, with her amazing, talented team representing the University of Iowa, has further and significantly raised the profile of women’s athletics.

Kathrine and Caitlin, running with torches.

*This link goes to an “unofficial” YouTube video of the documentary. Apologies I wasn’t able to find a better one.


4 Responses

  1. Laura McHugh
    | Reply

    I went to the link for Hannah’s talk. What an amazing mom you were to her to give her space to find and define herself. The world is lucky to have her out in it, doing her work to help others find their authentic selves. And I will also thank you personally for all the help I got from you in my quilting journey.

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Laura, what a lovely, kind note to receive from you today. I was/am not a perfect mom by any means, but I think the best thing a parent can do is encourage kids to pursue whatever it is they are drawn to.

  2. Jan
    | Reply

    Thank you for your post and the video, which I had not seen. 1971! Incredible.

    I will be in your town for the Quiltfolk writing retreat. I’m so excited!

    • Marianne Fons
      | Reply

      Jan, I’m delighted you will be in Winterset!

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