Emma Sharp walks 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours

Emma Sharp

Emma Sharp was a pedestrian, which in 19th century life was the term for an athlete competing in pedestrianism, one of the most popular sports in the western world at the time.
 
Pedestrians would walk around a track, some to accomplish a specific distance goal, others in competition with one another to see who could go the farthest distance over a specified time. Thousands, sometimes tens of thousands of spectators would come out to watch.
 
In September of 1864, Emma took on a challenge to walk 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours.
 
Dressed in a “’red and black checked coat and inexpressibles’ – the latter being used to describe the scandalous wearing of trousers by a woman,” she walked around a 120 yard track in Laisterdyke, England for 30 minutes, then would take a 90 minute break at the nearby Quarry Gap Hotel.
 
Some cheered for her success. Some did not. Betting on pedestrians was popular, so many had money at stake. Some even “threw burning embers in her path, some tried to drug her food, and still others simply resorted to trying to trip her at random times. As things escalated, for her protection, eighteen police officers disguised as working citizens were assigned to her on the final days of the race. In addition to that, during the night, a helpful citizen walked in front of her with a loaded rifle. Emma also walked the final two days with a pistol, which she had to fire in warning a reported 27 times in total to ward off unruly spectators.”
 
But on October 29, 1864, in front of 25,000 spectators, Emma finished her walk. She completed the 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours in six weeks.
 
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Crystal Eastman: “What is the problem of women’s freedom?”

Crystal Eastman

“What is the problem of women’s freedom? It seems to me to be this: how to arrange the world so that women can be human beings, with a chance to exercise their infinitely varied gifts in infinitely varied ways, instead of being destined by the accident of their sex to one field of activity–housework and child-raising. And second, if and when they choose housework and child-raising to have that occupation recognized by the world as work, requiring a definite economic reward and not merely entitling the performer to be dependent on some man.”

– Crystal Eastman

Source: Crystal Eastman, “Now We Can Begin” (1920).

Wilma Rudolph overcomes infantile paralysis to become a champion in track and field

Wilma Rudolph

“My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”

Her basketball coach in high school called her skeeter. Because “you’re just like a skeeter. You’re little, you’re fast and you always get in the way,” he would say.

But before she was dashing around on a basketball court, Wilma Rudolph was just struggling to walk. She was born prematurely and weighed just 4.5 pounds at birth. And she was often sick. Dealing with pneumonia and scarlet fever, and then with infantile paralysis, which was caused by polio.

As a result, she lost strength in her left foot and leg and had to wear a leg brace. For two years, she and her mother traveled nearly a hundred miles for treatment at Meharry Medical College, a facility that treated African Americans. They made the trip weekly.

But by twelve years old, Wilma had recovered and was walking without the aid of a brace. And soon thereafter, she followed her older sister in to basketball. That’s how she got in to sports.

She excelled on the basketball court, setting records at her school. But a track coach convinced her to give running a shot. Which she did. And which is where stardom came quick. She made the U.S. team for the 1956 Olympics as an 89 pound, sixteen year old. There she won a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay. Four years later she was back in the Olympics. Now six feet tall and weighing 130 pounds, she won three gold medals in 1960, the first woman to win three gold medals in track and field in one Olympics, and set the world record in the 200m dash.

Looking back, she said, “I never forgot all the years when I was a girl and not able to be involved. When I ran, I felt like a butterfly. That feeling was always there.”

The short story of Anthony Bowen

Anthony Bowen

Anthony Bowen was born into slavery in Prince George’s County, MD in 1809. Determined to build a life as a free man, he would moonlight as a painter and bricklayer, earning enough money to purchase his freedom in 1830 for $425. Shortly after, he purchased his wife’s freedom.

As a free man, he began work at the U.S. patent office. There he started as a laborer, moved up to messenger, and then a clerk, becoming the first African American clerk at the patent office.

Outside of his work, his home became a stop on the underground railroad station. It was said that he “built an extra attic in which to hide runaway slaves.”

Anthony would go on to become a founder and president of the world’s first African-American YMCA. And “he led the advocacy for local and federal governments to fund public education for black children, prompting Congress to fund, in 1868, the first free public school for black children in Southwest Washington, the E Street School. Just prior to his death, Bowen was elected to the 68th Common Council of Washington from 1870-1871.”

He passed away in 1871. His funeral was attended by many in the community.

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Bowen#cite_note-Turner-1, http://www.ymcadc.org/page.cfm?p=42