Happy Canada Day!: A list of the Top 5 Canadian Women's Sport Books

posted by Women in Sport International
Friday, July 1, 2011 at 2:08pm EDT

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It is Canada Day and I live in Ottawa... so needless to say this is going to be a short and sweet blog post. In honor of Canada Day, I have put together a list of the Top 5 Canadian Women's Sport Books for those of you looking for some extra reading this beautiful summer.

As you can imagine, there are very few books written on women in sport in Canada (especially in comparison with the overwhelming books on sport in general and on male athlete biographies). The list below are five of the most groundbreaking books on women and sport in Canada and are great reads for anyone looking to learn more about the complexities that surround women's sport. They also provide amazing stories of athletes and sport administrators that have grown women's sport over the last 150 years.

Here are the top 5 books that I have come across. I have not ranked them in any particular order as they each address different aspects of women's sport. What I thought would be more fun would be to have a poll to see what book the followers of this blog like the best. The poll is available on my homepage here.

Happy Reading!

The Struggle for Canadian Sport by Bruce Kidd, University of Toronto Press, 1996.

This book features a wide variety of topics across all areas of Canadian sports. The second chapter is most interesting for fans of female sport. Entitled "Girls Sports Run By Girls", the chapter discusses the "golden age" of women's sports in Canada, that being the 1920's. It provides great historical insight into why women burst onto the sport scene during this period and the backlash that some women faced. Men, in particular, spoke of the increasing female participation in sport as an "invasion." Read the entire chapter online in Google Books.

The Girl and the Game, by Margaret Ann Hall, University of Toronto Press, 2002.

This book focuses entirely on the history of women's sport in Canada from the point of view of a very successful Canadian author and historian. The thesis of the book, in the words of Ms. Hall, is a story of "How masculine hegemony in Canadian sport was resisted by women, and, in turn, how their efforts were opposed, and sometimes supported, by men.... It is the story of the many ordinary women (and some men)who contributed to the development of women's sports in Canada." This book is a classic and a must read for women looking to advance women's sport.

Immodest and Sensational: 150 Years of Canadian Women in Sport by Margaret Ann Hall, James Lorimer & Company, 2008

This book addresses the recent success of women athletes in Canada but also pays tribute to the rich history of women's sport in this country. Canadian women have been playing and competing since the latter part of the nineteenth century. This book, similar to "The Girl and the Game" addresses the social obstacles that have made the playing field uneven for women. It also discusses such topics that are still important and arise often today: such as "unladylike" dress, the "dangers" of exercise for future mothers, and the restricted access to sports facilities for women (does any of this sound familiar? See here and here). This book focuses its stories on female athletes and early women sports writers, as opposed to the last book which focused more on those who developed women's sport. A preview is not currently available on Google Books but links to purchase the book can be found here.

Black Tights: Women Sport and Sexuality by Laura Robinson, HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2003.

This book is an absolutely "must read" for those currently working in sport and grappling with the constant pressure to sexualize women's sport. In the words of the publisher "Black Tights takes a hard look at the world of women’s sports at a time when media exploitation of female athletes should be a key issue of concern. Whether amateur or professional, women athletes are often caught in a conflict between performance, their own private sense of sexuality, and public sexual objectification. Why are so many women athletes more famous for their physical “assets” than their physical abilities? Why do some sporting events resemble a fashion show rather than an athletic competition? Why does homophobia still prevent certain female athletes from landing the most lucrative endorsement deals? And most of all, why can’t men and women play together?"

This book is filled with great stories from modern women athletes. These stories are combined with a unique mix of solid research and investigative journalism. The entire book makes a great argument for a more enlightened and informed view of womens sports. I wish that all sports commentators were forced to read this before taking the air to cover a women's sporting event. Again, this book is not on Google Books but can be purchased online here.

Great Girls by Laura Robinson, HarperCollins Publishers, 2004.

This book, also by Laura Robinson, focuses on the incredible stories of recent Canadian female athletes that have seen success on the world stage. Written shortly after the Canadian women's hockey team won the Olympics and after the Canadian women's soccer team fought a hard battle in the semi-finals of the FIFA Women's World Cup, the book came out at a time when women's sports was really taking off in Canada. The publisher states "Now, more than ever, young Canadian girls have some champions they can look up to." The book features 17 profiles of Canadian athletes. It features such stars as Hayley Wickenheiser, Erin McLeod, and Nora Young, to name a few. This is a much lighter read then the other books of this list and is probably most appropriate for a teenage audience. Again, there is no preview available online but this book can be purchased here.

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