Meet the former Globe columnist who almost made it on your money
In the early 20th century, Bobbie Rosenfeld strove to be No. 1 in every sport she tried, from track and field to hockey – but where 21st-century paper money is concerned, she was a runner-up.
Ms. Rosenfeld, an Olympic gold and silver medallist who turned to sports journalism in the 1930s, was one of the Bank of Canada's five finalists for a 2018 banknote honouring a historic Canadian woman. On Thursday, Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that black civil-rights pioneer Viola Desmond would appear on the new $10 bill. But The Globe would be remiss in not also highlighting one of its long-serving sports columnists, who made a lifelong cause of promoting women in athletics. Here's a primer on Ms. Rosenfeld's career and a selection of some of her work from The Globe's archives.
1 She played all the sports. Bobbie Rosenfeld broke Canadian track-and-field records and won silver and gold at the 1928 Olympics, but she also played hockey, basketball and softball, and managed the Lakeside Langleys softball team. The Globe and Mail's 1969 obituary boasted that she "set the sports world ablaze with her incomparable ability in every sport she ever tried."
2 Her given name was Fanny, but no one called her that. Ms. Rosenfeld, a Russian-born Jewish immigrant who grew up in Barrie, Ont., was nicknamed Bobbie for her bob haircut. "She bobbed her flaming red hair long after the style was fashionable, and walked into a room as if she were entering an arena," former Globe editor-in-chief Richard (Dic) Doyle recalled in his 1990 memoirs.
3 She brought other female athletes with her into the spotlight. The 1920s was a pioneering era for women in formerly male-dominated sports such as track and field, and Ms. Rosenfeld helped found several women's teams and sports associations in the Toronto area. A 1969 Globe editorial put her alongside other nickname-sporting Canadian female track champions such as Saskatoon Lily (Ethel Calderwood) and Penetang Pansy (Jean Thomson): "They burst on the nineteen twenties in their boy's sneakers, pup-tent bloomers and spinnaker middies and smashed forever the Victorian pruderies that had consecrated playing fields for men only."
4 She has an athletics award named after her. The Canadian Press awards the annual Bobbie Rosenfeld Award to the nation's female athlete of the year. Past winners include swimmer Marilyn Bell, Olympic speed skater Catriona Le May Doan and, most recently, golfer Brooke Henderson.
5 She worked for The Globe and Mail's sports department for 20 years. Joining the newspaper in 1937 after arthritis put an end to her sports career, Ms. Rosenfeld had a regular digest of sports news (initially called "Feminine Sports Reel," then simply "Sports Reel") and wrote columns strongly advocating for women in athletics. Here are some samples of her work, from The Globe's archives.
On women in sports (July 14, 1937):
We are but infants in our newly-found sport freedom. Our athletic femmes crave indulgence, and maybe in a short time they will be able to finish their races with all the smiles of a Jesse Owens and throw the javelin with all the grace of the ancient Greeks ... so have a heart, men! And, too, I have seen male athletes who can’t exactly be termed Greek gods in action ... or maybe they are supposed to look ugly and clumsy just to fool the opposition.
On the 1940 Summer Olympics, cancelled by the outbreak of the Second World War (May 4, 1940):
At the moment, with Hitler’s hordes trying to strangle Scandinavia, Stalin’s henchmen just through with the job of cracking the whip over Finland, and the rest of Europe hot as a firecracker, the chances of Olympic revival in our time look further away than ever. The Games were to have been held in Finland this year, but were called off definitely and finally. So in 1940 there will be no spine-tingling scene as this bureau witnessed in 1928 – eager young men and women, standing in the bright, clear sunshine, erect and resolute, taking the Olympic oath ... “For the honor of our country” is still the theme of countless thousands of keen young men of half the world today, only the game is grimmer and the prize not a parchment nor a gay ribbon nor a shining medal, but glory and maybe the grave. Yes, Olympic Games seem far, far away just now.
On Marilyn Bell's swim across Lake Ontario (Sept. 10, 1954):
This space joins the hearty chorus in praise of 16-year-old Marilyn Bell of New Toronto. There is no point in throwing in unnecessary adjectives to describe her astounding struggle with Lake Ontario. So I’ll chuck them all in favor of the finest accolade that can be bestowed on any competitor. She has the same heart of courage found beating in great athletes. Those types who withstand the fates, the grim struggle, the long drive, grimly and gamely. All day long I watched her determined progress in awe, scarcely speaking above a whisper when trouble was brewing. Just the same, right now I’ve got to holler: “Bravo, bravo, Marilyn Bell!”
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