In 1999, ESPN’s SportCentury ranked the top North American athletes of the twentieth century. The list, compiled by a panel of 48 journalists, observers, and administrators–and one sport scholar–included eighty-nine men, eight women, and three horses. ESPN’s more recent compilation, The Undefeated’s 50 Greatest Black Athletes, asked the public to rank the most important black athletes of all time, based on overall ranking, dominance, inspiration, and impact on society. This list included seven women. Female athletes have historically been sidelined in sport, and this appears to extend into conversations about sporting greats, particularly in lists created by commentators, fans, and journalists.
We would thus like to share our platform for sport scholars to fill this gap and recognize the important contributions of women in sport history. Those interested should compile their own Top 10 lists and provide brief commentary on their selections to help educate our readers about the oftentimes overlooked historically significant women in sport. Similar to our post that asked historians to rank historically significant black athletes, the goal is to broaden the conversation about which athletes are typically named “the greatest” in sport.
Please submit a list of the ten most historically significant women athletes and include a two-to-three sentence explanation for each choice that describes the reason behind the selection and her numerical ranking.