'Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women' Review - Owlcation - Education
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'Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women' Review

Ms. Dora loves to share poetry, creative writing, quotes, and reflections and has been writing online for over eight years.

More than 250 athletes participated in the first modern Olympic Games in Athens (1896) and no woman was included.

When women were officially allowed to participate in the 1900 Olympics in Paris, their events were tennis, golf, archery, and swimming.

Fast forward to the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam when track and field were added to the roster. Betty Robinson was the first woman from the United States, or anywhere, to win an Olympic track and field gold medal. That trailblazing performance in Amsterdam (1928) was the beginning of her journey into the Olympic Hall of Fame (1977).

The Fastest Woman on Earth in 1928

Betty Robinson at Soldier Field in Chicago (Chicago Tribune)

Betty Robinson at Soldier Field in Chicago (Chicago Tribune)

The Book

The full title of the book in which Roseanne Montillo tells the story is Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women. The picture on the front jacket shows Betty Robinson (middle) in her Amsterdam win.

betty-robinson-and-the-triumph-of-the-early-olympic-women-review

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Crown (October 17, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1101906154
ISBN-13: 978-1101906156
Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
Genre: Sports & Outdoors > Miscellaneous > Women in Sports

The Story

Montillo includes interesting details of Betty’s childhood in Riverdale, Illinois; of the chance discovery of her athletic ability by the high school coach who watched her run to catch a bus; of the plane crash which left her with injuries which made it seem that she would never walk again, and which caused her to miss the 1932 games; of the outstanding comeback which made her shine in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

She records the efforts and triumphs of other early Olympic women like Babe Didrikson from Beaumont, Texas who watched Betty during the 1928 games, and vowed to achieve a similar feat; Stella Walsh who came from Poland to Cleveland, Ohio in 1911 but competed against America for Poland in 1932; Helen Stephens from St. Louis, Missouri who beat Stella Walsh in 1936.

The details of the women’s efforts, their struggle against gender prejudice, the support of male and female coaches who stood by them, are just some of the story lines which make this book interesting and inspirational. Readers get more than a glimpse of life in that period through Montillo’s episodes of political history, cultural norms and societal attitudes toward women in sports. The story offers inspiration to anyone with the minutest sense of female pride; but in the end Montillo’s tale is one of American pride.

1928 U.S. Olympians

L-R: Katharine Maguire of St. Louis, Dolores Boeck of St. Louis, Johnny Weissmuller, champion swimmer from Chicago, and Betty Robinson, sprinter champion from Chicago. (Associated Press)

L-R: Katharine Maguire of St. Louis, Dolores Boeck of St. Louis, Johnny Weissmuller, champion swimmer from Chicago, and Betty Robinson, sprinter champion from Chicago. (Associated Press)

Likeable Features

The layout of book presents three sections, one for each of the Olympic Games in 1928, 1932 and 1936. In each section, the chapter headings (18 in total) make it easy for readers to find the events they want to review. The chapter lengths provide helpful breaks in this engaging compilation of sports history.

Throughout the book, Montillo reports newspaper headlines and quotes which take the reader back in time. One such article by Frederick Rand Rogers titled Olympics for Girls? was published one year after the 1928 Olympics. It stated, “Perhaps the most obvious physical difference of all is that men are more animal-like, mobile, energetic, aware while women are more plant-like, more closely attached to the soil, to home, and quieter by nature...Competition, even though undesirable socially, is at least natural to men. In women, it is profoundly unnatural.”

Several other newspaper quotes as well as rumors help the readers realize what the early Olympians were up against, and show the extent to which thoughts about women in sports have evolved.

Recommendation

The book is great motivational material for aspiring youth in any field. Montillo includes the moral and economic shortcomings of the athletes which could have, but did not sabotage their victory.

Older people will love this work for filling in the historical facts they missed, and for giving them a chance to relive the events that inspired hope then and now.

The Author

Roseanne Montillo has written two other works of nonfiction, The Lady and her Monsters and The Wilderness of Ruin. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, where she taught courses on the intersection of literature and history. She lives outside Boston.

Disclosure

Through Blogging for Books (http://www.bloggingforbooks.com/), I received this book free from the publisher. There was no request for me to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is the entire book about Betty Robinson?

Answer: Betty Robinson is the primary feature of "Fire on the Track" but the author also records the efforts and triumphs of other early Olympic women like Babe Didrikson from Beaumont, Texas who watched Betty during the 1928 games, and vowed to achieve a similar feat; Stella Walsh who came from Poland to Cleveland, Ohio in 1911 but competed against America for Poland in 1932; Helen Stephens from St. Louis, Missouri who beat Stella Walsh in 1936. It is a book about the barriers broken by women on their way to their Olympic experience.

© 2017 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on January 29, 2019:

Alivia, I have replaced your original comment, but replaced it with an edited copy.

Thanks for commenting. I'm happy that you like the book, and I'm certain that it helped you with your study about Betty Robinson. Not surprised that you mom liked it. You both have good taste.

Alivia Saunders on January 29, 2019:

Hi. My name is Alivia Saunders I read your book about track because we are doing a project for which you pick somebody from the 1920s and I picked Betty Robinson. I just wanted to tell you that the book is really good and I bought the book and my mom stole it from me.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 30, 2017:

Thanks, Chitrangada for your kind feedback. Glad you were inspired it seems as much as I was.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on November 29, 2017:

Great article and wonderful review!

Thanks for introducing me to this great Olympian-so inspirational. Such stories motivate and inspire us to work harder to achieve our goals in life.

Thanks for sharing this excellent article!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 27, 2017:

Hi Rachelle. You probably are too young to have heard Betty Robinson's name, so I'm glad to bring her to your attention. I checked on Johnny Weissmuller to make sure. He's Tarzan, all right.

Rachelle Williams from Tempe, AZ on November 25, 2017:

Thank yo for introducing me to Betty Robinson, I had never even heard of her before. Also, one question...is that the Johnny Weissmuller from Tarzan fame?

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 23, 2017:

Stella, you're in for a treat. From the beginning to the end, the story is well told. Thanks for your feedback.

Stella Aligizaki from Greece on November 22, 2017:

I will find the book and read it. I teach literature and your book review motivated my interest. Thank you.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 22, 2017:

Thanks, Nikki. If you like stories about inspiration and hard work, this is the story for you. I appreciate your feedback.

Nikki Khan from London on November 22, 2017:

Interesting and motivating story,,much inspired by.I like such stories a lot which force you to work hard and achieve.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 18, 2017:

Bill, glad to feed your Olympics excitement. Yea, we look for the character stories.

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on November 18, 2017:

Just the kind of rad I need to get excited about the 2018 Olympics. There'll be no track and field in this one, but I'm sure plenty of stories of determination, courage, and challenges. Thanks, Dora.

BBYCGN from Uninhabited Regions on November 17, 2017:

Ya! xxxooo

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 17, 2017:

Tamara, neat that you followed my Pinterest link. Thanks for the kind comment, for following and for reading.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 17, 2017:

Jackie, my interest in this book was really the achievement of women; but the author does a good job of chronicling the life of Betty Robinson and giving us some facts about her teammates.

BBYCGN from Uninhabited Regions on November 17, 2017:

A concise, and well put-together book review. Thank you, Dora. I love watching the Gymnastics, Running, Diving, and Ice Skating, on the Olympics!

Also, I found you on Pinterest thru your link, and Followed you. Such a lovely smile on your profile picture! Radiant!

Xxxooo

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on November 17, 2017:

I know I would like this Dora. I just love knowing about interesting people, sports is good but it could be anything and I do not even have to know of them. Biographies are my big thing but historic things too are big on my list which this certainly is.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 16, 2017:

Laura, what a great idea! I appreciate your input. Thanks!

Laura Smith from Pittsburgh, PA on November 16, 2017:

Interesting. Maybe they will adapt the book into a movie one day.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 16, 2017:

Kari, you would enjoy the book. It’s historical and inspiring and Betty Robinson’s life is very interesting. Thanks for commenting.

Kari Poulsen from Ohio on November 16, 2017:

This sounds like a book I would enjoy. I have a thing for biographies. :)

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 16, 2017:

Mary, I just wish that more younger females would pay attention to the attitudes and discipline of those who excelled before them. Wish more of them would read, to begin with.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 16, 2017:

Devika, this book is a really good read and a great commentary on attitudes in that period. Thanks for your comment.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 16, 2017:

Thanks, Linda. Track and Field is also my favorite sport - to watch. Great to see the women who excel.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 16, 2017:

Thanks, Yes for the comment and the compliment. Pleased that I found this inspiring book and am able to share it.

Mary Wickison from Brazil on November 16, 2017:

It sounds like this would be an interesting read for many. When we realize how many adversities women had to go through I think it should be essential reading, especially for teenage girls. To show them how determination will always win the day.

Plus the added newspaper quotes will show how slanted the press was against half the population.

Great review.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on November 15, 2017:

MsDora you gave me an honest and interesting review. I see your why you highly recommend this book.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on November 15, 2017:

This certainly sounds like an interesting book. Track and Field is my favourite Olympic event, so I think I would enjoy the book that you describe. Thanks for sharing another review, Dora. They're always interesting.

Yves on November 15, 2017:

Ms. Robinson...what an athlete! I never cease to be amazed at the spirit of individuals who not only survive, but who go on to beat all the odds. Amazing.

No doubt, this book is worth reading, especially for those who feel that hope is all but lost. Thanks for bringing this story to our attention, Ms. Dora.

P.S. Love your new hairdo!!!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 15, 2017:

Thanks, Manatita. We love men who appreciate women. Thanks for your support.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 15, 2017:

Thanks, Peg. I learned so much from this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and I have great appreciation for the trailblazers.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 15, 2017:

Flourish, if you were to read the book you would laugh out loud at some of the funny things people thought about women in sports. they tried to sound scientific too. You're right about these women paving the way; they did it bravely. thanks for your input.

manatita44 from london on November 15, 2017:

An interesting look at the early women runners. She has an unusual pose coming off the blocks and would have perhaps gained a lot from a modern coach.

Always happy with the achievements of women. It is sad that some countries are still so depressive when it comes to opportunities for women. Things are changing slowly, poco a poco. A great read!

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on November 15, 2017:

Great review of this important and inspirational book. Betty Robinson serves as a role model for determination and strength in overcoming obstacles. Thanks for sharing your insight on this book.

FlourishAnyway from USA on November 15, 2017:

That's one I've never heard before -- that men are more animal-like while women are more plant-like. Snicker, snicker. I wish young women athletes could read this so they could have a deeper appreciation of who paved their way and what those folks had to endure. Never forget where you came from!

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 15, 2017:

Thanks, Eric. Great legacy here for women, Americans and youth all over the world to follow.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 15, 2017:

Thanks Bill. Because I have not followed any of these sports, this book provides lots of information, and make me wish I had followed.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on November 15, 2017:

Well Louise, you will like this book. The author includes several complementary incidents which are eye-opening, informative and sometimes humorous, all of which make the book interesting. Thanks for your feedback.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 15, 2017:

Sounds good to me. Legacy is great stuff.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on November 15, 2017:

I started coaching women's volleyball and basketball back in 1978. It's amazing how far those sports have come in that time, and how the quality of play has improved. Wonderful report here, Dora! Very interesting.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on November 15, 2017:

That sounds an interesting book to read. This is the sort of book I enjoy reading. Thanks. =)

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