Column: The fight for female recognition

John
John Browne
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Local female sports athletes take it for granted there are awards for the best female athletes in the capital city and the province.
Female sports did not enjoy the prominence it does today. Fact is, there wasn’t a whole lot of major senior calibre female sports being played prior to the 1950s. And what did exist was basically ignored by the local media.

It’s hard to believe now, but when I was at Brother Rice in the late 1960s there were no girls’ soccer or hockey teams and certainly no rugby being played at the high school level.

I know when an official women’s hockey league was formed the teams were given terrible ice times for games.

There were no female sports reporters in “the old days” and, quite frankly, the male reporters at the time could have cared less about women’s sports.

It wasn’t until the 1970s when sports writers such as Marje Keough and Rosie Mullaley came along that women began making inroads in terms of coverage in the local media. Prior to that, most female sports coverage was simply condescending at best.

The recognition and support of females athletes had to start somewhere.

Here’s a bit of local sports history from Dee Murphy.

Edythe Goodridge, who died recently, deserves some credit for the St. John’s Athlete of the Year Committee selecting an annual female winner.

Goodridge and Penny Rowe were women’s editors at the Daily News when its offices were located on Duckworth Street. Dee Murphy, who was sports editor, was also chairman of the Athlete of the Year Selection Committee. The three decided it was time to recognize female athletes.

As Murphy recalls, Goodridge and Rowe crashed the annual meeting of the Athlete of the Year Committee and informed the members that they would not leave until a female section was added to the annual selections. Murphy tried to appoint Howie Meeker as “sergeant at arms” and have him remove the two ladies. Naturally, according to Murphy, Meeker declined and a motion was passed to add a female selection.

The first St. John’s female athlete of the year was sprinter Maria Fitzpatrick in 1969. She was inducted into the Newfoundland and Labrador Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame in 2005.

Now it’s rather obvious some of the greatest athletes this province has ever produced are females and most of them have been given their just acknowledgement when it comes to awards or publicity.

They are too numerous to mention here, but they’ve come out of such diverse sports as basketball, softball, tennis, rowing, soccer, athletics and figure skating.

It’s still tough sledding in some areas when it comes to female sports coverage, but there’s no turning back the clock.

BROWNIE POINTS

Will someone in Toronto Blue Jays management let the home fans know it’s not OK to grab the ball when a Blue Jays player is attempting to make a catch. Are these fans stupid or what? Watched a lot of Blue Jays games recently and it happened twice in a week. They are all a bunch of Steve Bartmans and should be banned for the rest of the season... Andrew Murphy on the switch from player to player-coach this season with Mount Pearl: “The most important thing for me is to make sure that everyone is prepared going in to the game, both as a team and individually. As long as they're prepared, it’s easy for me to focus on playing. It also helps that most of our players have a lot of Challenge Cup experience, so they don’t need too much coaching during the game.”...   The Rock’s first game of the Canadian Rugby Championship (CRC) season is Sept. 18 at Ontario Blues. The first home game is Sept. 18 against Prairie Wolf Pack ... World Cup begins Thursday. Go England! Fellow Tely staffer Lou Power, a huge One Direction fan, pulling for France which makes him a Lou-ser...

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Year Selection Committee, Toronto Blue Jays, Daily News Newfoundland and Labrador Athletic Association Ontario Blues

Geographic location: Duckworth Street, Mount Pearl, England France

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