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Alice Milliat: A Feminist Pioneer for Women’s Sport

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Global Sport Leaders

Abstract

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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Notes

  1. 1.

    Annick Davisse & Catherine Louveau, Sports, école et société : la différence des sexes. Paris, L’Harmattan, 1998.

  2. 2.

    Terret Thierry, “From Alice Milliat to Marie-Thérèse Eyquem: Revisiting Women’s Sport in France (1920s–1960s)”, The International Journal of the History of Sport, 27(7), 2010, p. 1156.

  3. 3.

    “Madame Alice Milliat ou le sport et la femme”, Les cahiers de la République des lettres, des sciences et des arts, 15 May 1927, pp. 83–87.

  4. 4.

    L’Auto, 10 August 1922.

  5. 5.

    L’Auto, 10 January 1924.

  6. 6.

    L’Auto, 26 March 1923.

  7. 7.

    L’Auto, 28 February 1924.

  8. 8.

    L’Auto, 15 May 1924.

  9. 9.

    “Les droits de la femme et le sport”, La Femme sportive, n°12, 1 April 1922.

  10. 10.

    La Française, 3 June 1922.

  11. 11.

    L’Auto, 17 January 1924.

  12. 12.

    L’Auto, 17 January 1924.

  13. 13.

    La Française, 21 April 1923.

  14. 14.

    “Woman’s World Games Dramatize Women’s Athletics.” Independent Woman, Vol. XII, Oct. 1934, quoted by Bonin and Leigh, “The pioneering role of Madame Alice Milliat and the FSFI in establishing International Trade and Field Competition for women”, Journal of Sport History, 4(1), 1977, pp. 72–83.

  15. 15.

    L’Auto, 17 January 1924.

  16. 16.

    “Propagande”, La Femme Sportive, n°11, 1 March 1922.

  17. 17.

    “Propagande”, La Femme Sportive, n°11, 1 March 1922.

  18. 18.

    L’Auto, 14 January 1924.

  19. 19.

    L’Auto, 19 April 1923.

  20. 20.

    L’Auto, 2 March 1923.

  21. 21.

    In the editorial she wrote for the first issue of La Femme Sportive, published on 1 May 1921, and in her famous book for women that was reprinted several times up until the 1950s: Ma doctoresse, guide pratique d’hygiène et de médecine de la femme moderne (tomes 1 et 2), Strasbourg, Editorial Argentor, 1928.

  22. 22.

    L’Auto, 25 April 1924.

  23. 23.

    FFA archives.

  24. 24.

    “Comment fut fondée la Fédération Internationale féminine”, L’Auto, 3 November 1921.

  25. 25.

    FSFI minutes, 31 October 1921, Paris.

  26. 26.

    FSFI minutes, 18 August 1922, Paris.

  27. 27.

    Letter from Sigfried Edström to Avery Brundage, 3 January 1935, “ABC Box 42, reel 24”, Archives of the International Centre for Olympic Studies, University of Western Ontario, Canada, cited by Carly Adams (2002).

  28. 28.

    Correspondence with the IOC in 1930 and 1935. IOC archives, Lausanne, Switzerland.

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Correspondence to Florence Carpentier .

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Biography

Biography

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. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-76753-6_3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-76753-6_3

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