Who is Alice Milliat, the pioneer of women’s Olympic sport?

Just 120 years ago, women were banned from the Olympics. Sports activities were specifically dedicated to men, and this, since ancient times. But luckily, mindsets have changed and women now participate in competitions. And we owe this great evolution to a woman. Not just anyone. A fervent activist, feminist, ambassador of women’s sport: Alice Milliat.

If you don’t know her, we introduce you to the first female athlete to give her name to an Olympic pavilion and to have elevated women’s sport to the same rank as men’s.

Sport and women: a winding road to parity

Today, it may seem frightening to know that Women, at that time, were not allowed to participate in sports competition. It is true that parity is still debatable these days, however, don’t ignore progress !

Yes, since ancient times, the Olympic Games they were men’s thing. the women were completely excluded as athletes. They could only attend the competitions.as a spectator and only if they they weren’t married yet. Furthermore, according to the codes of the time, a woman doing sports meant that she had to dress in the wrong clothes. In addition, sports activity was considered bad for women’s health and for his ability to procreate.

However, despite the yoke of patriarchy and sexism, sixteen women of Elisregion of Greece located to the west of the Peloponnese peninsula, created their own sports games in the 6th century BC: The Herean Games. The event, which takes place every four years in Olympia, was strictly dedicated to women of all ages.

But this emancipation did not last long. The Christian Emperor Theodosius abolishes competitions, male and female, in 393 CE. It was not until 1503 years later that the Olympic Games come back to life, at the initiative of Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin.

Put like that, it seems like a big step forward for athletes. But imagine that Coubertin he didn’t make it easy for women. He judged that the weaker sex did not take place in the competitions and them ban participation. So many years to return to the starting point…

“A women’s Olympiad would be impractical, uninteresting, unsightly and wrong. » Pierre de Coubertin, 1912 Olympic Games, Stockholm.

But nothing is completely lost. Our Alice Milliat, comes to give a good kick to sexism and change history.

Who is Alice Milliat?

The pioneer of women’s sport was born May 5, 1884 in Nantes. The teacher, but also rower, senior hockey playerhas defended tooth and nail, since the 20th century, the Women rights and particularly so that Women’s sport is recognized in the same way as men’s.. She is fiercely opposed to the sexism and patriarchy of Pierre de Coubertin. And she was successful.

Alice Milliat at the controls

In 1915 it became President of the Gemina-Sport cluban all-sports club founded in 1912 in Paris, dedicated to promotion of women’s football and athletics. In 1917 she became one of the founders of the Federation of Women’s Sports Societies of France, the first federation in focus on women’s physical activitiesof which she would later be president, in 1919.

The same year, Alice Milliat petitioned the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to include women’s athletics events at the next Olympic Games. At that time, women could not participate. than in tennis or golf competitionsonly judged sports “compatible with her femininity and fragility »according to Coubertin.

But the social environment this is not the time for progress and parity. Our activist meets numerous rejections. So he decides to create, for his part, women’s competitions, with which he has always dreamed.

Women finally at the Olympics thanks to Alice Milliat

In 1921, in Monte Carlo, took place the first international meeting of women. It will follow, in 1922 in Paris, the first edition of the Women’s World Games, called at the time Women’s Olympic Games. As for the third edition, it was held in 1930 in Prague and brought together 200 women from 17 different countries before more than 15,000 spectators.ice.s.

However, it was not until the resignation of Pierre Coubertin in 1925 that real progress was made. The success of these women’s Olympic Games convinces the IOC. he authorizes finally women to compete in athletics events. the first women athletes will participate in Amsterdam in 1928.

If these competitions were a good example of progress in terms of women’s rightsThese facts were, on the other hand, supervised exclusively by the IOC and they were under tutelage of federations run only by men. Thus, the International Federation of Women’s Sports is extinguished and Alice Milliat withdraws from the race. but she leaves behind a deep heritage.

a statue of him

After her death in 1957, Alice Milliat fell little by little into oblivion. Some gyms and the Crous de Nantes, his hometown, will bear his name. But it was not until 2016 that his fight would rise from the ashes, with the creation of The Alice Milliat Foundationfor media coverage and promotion female sports.

In 2020, Councilor Nicolas Bonnet-Oulaldj, sports delegate for the 12th district of Paris, will even offer renaming the new Porte de la Chapelle Arena, in her name

But the most beautiful tribute that will be paid to him is the installation, in 2021, of a statue, 2.85 m high, representing her against Pierre de Coubertin, at the House of French Sport, in Paris. The building was inaugurated March 8, symbolic date, dedicated to International Women’s Day.

We owe a lot to Alice Milliat’s fair and healthy fight. Since 1900, no edition of the Olympic Games has brought together as many women as men. During the 2022 Olympics, women participated in 53% of all competitions. A path towards parity that the IOC seems to follow, sincealso promises parity for the 2024 Olympics. 10,500 athletes are planned, including 5,250 women. A promise that we hope will be fulfilled.

And if you want to go through the life of Alice Milliat in images, we recommend that you watch the documentary the wrong ones.

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