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Alice Milliat: A Feminist Pioneer for Women’s Sport

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Global Sport Leaders


Despite being born into a modest family in provincial France, and without qualification, Alice Milliat rose to become a leading figure in the nascent international movement for women’s sport of the 1920’s and 1930’s. After supporting a national sport movement for women, she founded an international federation (1921) and its World games (1922–1934) and fought for the complete participation of women into the track and field Olympic program. Eventually, in the face of strong oppositions of conservative male sport leaders, she had to give up her fight for women emancipation in 1936. In this chapter, Carpentier shows how Milliat tried to apply her feminist convictions into the sport movement of her time and the way she tackled the obstacles before disappearing from the public arena.

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Correspondence to Florence Carpentier .

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5 May 1884: Alice Joséphine Marie Million is born in Nantes (France).

1904: At the age of 20, she moves to London and marries Joseph Milliat, who was born in Nantes in 1880.

1908: The couple are still childless when Joseph dies at the age of 28, leaving Alice a widow.

1914: Milliat returns to France, probably at the beginning of World War I.

1915: Becomes president of Femina Sport, Paris’ first women’s sports club, formed in 1912.

1917: The FSFSF is founded with Alice Milliat as its treasurer.

1918: Appointed general secretary of the FSFSF.

1919: Elected president of the FSFSF at the very young age of 35.

1919: Petitions Pierre de Coubertin to allow women to take part in athletics events at the Olympic Games.

1921: “Women’s Olympiad” in Monte-Carlo, organised by the FFA. Milliat helps create the FSFI (October).

1922: Becomes president of the FSFI. Again petitions Pierre de Coubertin to allow women to take part in the Olympic Games. Opens the first Women’s World Games in Paris.

1925: Resigns as president of the FSFSF.

1926: Opens the second Women’s World Games in Gothenburg, Sweden.

1930: Becomes president of the FSFSF for the second time. Opens the third Women’s World Games in Prague (Hungary).

1934: Opens the fourth Women’s World Games in London (United Kingdom).

1936: Resigns the presidencies of both the FSFI and FSFSF, which cease to exist.

1957: Dies in Paris at the age of 73 and is buried anonymously in a cemetery in Nantes.

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Carpentier, F. (2018). Alice Milliat: A Feminist Pioneer for Women’s Sport. In: Bayle, E., Clastres, P. (eds) Global Sport Leaders. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-76752-9

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