(In)Visible Athletic Achievements: Australian women’s amateur athletics and thecase of Clarice Kennedy’s failed bid for the 1936 Olympic Games

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


In an impressively detailed doctoral thesis on amateur athletics in Australia (2023), ASSH member David Holmes takes the time to chart the growth of women’s amateur athletics. Through a comprehensive survey of institutional papers, he shows that the foundations of organisation were laid in the early 1930s, with formal recognition of women’s amateur athletic performances growing from the late 1940s. Yet, Australian newspapers show amateur women athletes were active, competitive, and pushing known limits of female physical capacity in the 1930s even as the structures of women’s athletics took shape. Hurdler and javelin thrower Clarice Kennedy was widely reported as breaking known records while still a schoolgirl in the late 1920s and immediately following her graduation. Kennedy missed out on Olympic selection in 1932 due to injury, but she was overlooked in 1936 despite formally breaking hurdling and javelin records at selection events. This paper examines institutional and print media records to reveal the ways in which the politics of women’s amateur athletics, both between women’s organisations, and women’s and men’s organisations, prevented Kennedy from achieving recognition as an Olympian, rendering her historically invisible despite the attention paid to her achievements in the print media in the 1930s.
Period12 Jul 2023
Event titleSporting Traditions XXIV Conference 2023: Australian Society for Sport History Conference
Event typeConference
LocationCanberra, Australia, Australian Capital TerritoryShow on map
Degree of RecognitionNational