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

Updated on December 16, 2018
MsDora profile image

MsDora, seven-year online writer, shares poetry, creative writing, quotes and reflections on how writing and writers influence our lives.

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) | Source

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.

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) | Source

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

  • Is the entire book about Betty Robinson?

    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

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      6 months ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • profile image

      Alivia Saunders 

      6 months ago

      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.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      21 months ago from New Delhi, India

      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!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

      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 profile image

      Rachelle Williams 

      21 months ago from Tempe, AZ

      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?

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • stelaligizaki profile image

      Stella Aligizaki 

      21 months ago from Greece

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      21 months ago from London

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • lifegate profile image

      William Kovacic 

      21 months ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

      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.

    • Rhyme Vine Poetry profile image

      Tamara Yancosky 

      21 months ago from Uninhabited Regions

      Ya! xxxooo

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • Rhyme Vine Poetry profile image

      Tamara Yancosky 

      21 months ago from Uninhabited Regions

      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 profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      21 months ago from The Beautiful South

      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.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • Laura335 profile image

      Laura Smith 

      21 months ago from Pittsburgh, PA

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      21 months ago from Ohio

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      21 months ago from Brazil

      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.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      21 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

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

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      21 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      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.

    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 

      21 months ago

      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!!!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

      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 profile image

      manatita44 

      21 months ago from london

      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!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      21 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      21 months ago from USA

      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!

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

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

    • MsDora profile imageAUTHOR

      Dora Weithers 

      21 months ago from The Caribbean

      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.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Sounds good to me. Legacy is great stuff.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      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.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      21 months ago from Norfolk, England

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

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)