Famous Women IMHO
Wilma Rudolph overcame great obstacles to become a world-renowned
athlete and civil rights icon. Rudolph was born the 20th out
of 22 children to a poor black family in Clarksville, Tennessee.
She was born premature, and required medical assistance to
achieve a healthy start to life.
However, in that time, racial segregation was very common.
The local hospital only treated white patients. Her mother,
having hardly any financial means, took Wilma home and nursed
her through years of several illnesses including a crippling
bout with polio. With her leg and foot becoming deformed from
the illness, doctors told Rudolph's parents that Wilma would
never walk again.
Believing in her heart that there must be another way, Rudolph's
mother found a hospital fifty miles from their home that treated
black patients. For two years, her mother traveled to this
hospital twice a week, with her ailing child, to get the medical
help that she needed for her daughter. Through corrective
braces and shoes, and with the aid of physical therapy, Rudolph
learned to walk. By the age of twelve, Rudolph was walking
without the use of crutches, or braces and joined the girls'
As a high school basketball player, Rudolph led her team
to the state championship and set state records for scoring.
She also became a track star who participated in her first
Olympics Games in 1956 at the age of 16. Four years later,
Rudolph became the first American woman to win 3 gold medals
in the Olympics with first place finishes in the 100-meter
dash, the 200-meter dash, and on the 400-meter relay team.
Her ability and her life story earned her instant fame as
a black female sports icon. Wilma Rudolph traveled the country
telling her story and inspiring young people to have confidence
and to achieve success. In 1963, Rudolph married a boy she
had met in high school named Robert Eldridge. Together, they
had four children. Despite taking time off to pursue her athletic
dreams, Rudolph also managed to complete a degree in Education.
Rudolph became known for not accepting the status quo. She
negotiated for her homecoming celebration in Clarksville,
Tennessee to be an open event for everyone. This was the first
non-segregated event of this type in Clarksville. She was
also an avid participant in anti-segregation campaigning and
When her track career ended, Rudolph put her teaching degree
to use and held coaching positions at various high schools.
She continued to speak to schools and universities about the
power of a "can do" attitude and about the injustice
of racial segregation and prejudice. She served as a sports
commentator and as the co-host of a network radio show. In
1967 Vice-President Hubert Humphrey offered Rudolph the opportunity
to serve in an outreach program that would bring athletics
into inner-cities for underprivileged children.
Rudolph died in 1994, after fighting brain cancer for several
months. Her amazing life story including striving for accomplishment
in the face of adversity makes Wilma Rudolph one of the most
inspiring sports icons and famous women of all time. She used
her talent for something more than personal gain, and worked
to make the world a better place.
There is a secret
you don't know
Besides the factual Wilma Rudolph biography presented above
there is a ghastly secret about the sports icon that no one
should know except for you and me. The secret is that Wilma
Rudolph had trust issues with her neighbor's gerbil and the
gerbil's name was Warren.