Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday, July 23, 1934

Mother is still sick. Daddy and I went down to Mart's for dinner. I stayed all night at Rita Mae's.

Helen Stephens running in white Olympic uniform
Helen Stephens (1918-1994)

Growing up on a farm in Callaway County near Fulton, Missouri, Helen loved to run and jump and climb. She also had to work hard on the family farm. By the time she was in high school, her coach was working with her
and took her to St. Louis for her first official race. She beat Stella Walsh, a Polish gold medalist in the 1932 Olympics, in the 50-meter dash at 6.6 seconds, setting a new indoor record on a dirt track.

On August 4, 1936, eighteen-year-old Helen Stephens set the Olympic world record for the 100-meter event at 11.5 seconds. Her record stood for twenty-four years until Wilma Rudolph beat it in the 1960 Olympics. On August 9, Stephens was the anchor in the 400-meter relay team that also set a world record time of 46.9 seconds. She received a gold medal for each event.

Helen returned to Fulton after the Olympics and earned a degree from William
Woods College. She paved the way for future female athletes of all ages. She is in the National and United States Track and Field Halls of Fame as well as the Women’s Hall of Fame. Helen Stephens died on January 17, 1994. She is buried in Fulton, Missouri.

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