Anita DeFrantz, who broke so many barriers, has now written a memoir recounting her experience in the first Olympics with women’s rowing (1976), as an African American in a time when few people of color rowed, as an intrepid lawyer who filed suit against the US Olympic Committee and the federal government when Congress voted to ban U.S. participation in the 1980 Moscow Olympics, and her long career with the very group, the USOC, that she had sued.
When I interviewed Anita for Boathouse Row, she told me about the challenge she faced as both a woman and an African American training on Boathouse Row in an era when the all-male clubs were only beginning to crack the door open to diversity.
“In the early days, I did not see anybody who was African American which was odd because the boat doesn’t care. And anybody could join the clubs,” she said. She also talked about women’s struggle to support themselves while training compared with the men.
“We had no support at all. We had to work to support ourselves. We had to pay our own way, to Europe for the world championship at Nottingham in 1975; the 1976 Olympic games in Amsterdam; the ’78 games in New Zealand, the ’79 games in Slovenia.
The men at Vesper had a place to live – in the boathouse. The women had to pay rent.” And while employers generously gave the oarsmen time off to train, “it was harder for women to get time off from work.”
An excellent interview with Anita is in Rowing News.
And Anita’s book, My Olympic Life is out in paper and e-book.