Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)


History (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

Donald Spivey

Second Committee Member

Robin F. Bachin

Third Committee Member

Gregory W. Bush

Fourth Committee Member

Andy Gillentine


This dissertation focuses on American women and the modern summer Olympic Games. It retraces the history of women's participation in this significant and global sporting event to study the obstacles generated by social, economic, political, and cultural gender patterns while providing a forum for female Olympians to give voice to their journeys and how they dealt with and eventually overcame some of these obstacles. The findings herein support other scholarly works, arguing that despite progress, the Olympic Games, and by extension the institution of sport in general, is and will remain a hegemonic space that allows men to maintain and reinforce their dominant position in society. It does show, however, that even though this global athletic event did not, at the collective level, result in an egalitarian redefinition of gender roles, the benefits of training and participating in the Olympics remain indisputable for the women involved--benefits no different than these enjoyed by male athletes. The Olympic Games, then, empowers women as it simultaneously reinforces their position of subordination.


American women; sport; Olympic Games; gender roles; hegemonic space