Orbiting Dicta

Irish Women Athletes

In Brian Boyd’s review article in the August 11 weekend Irish Times, “An Olympic Suffragette: ‘I was seen to be off gallivanting in a foreign land,’” the following letter to the editor from 1956 denouncing the participation of Maeve Kyle was included:

Irish Team For Olympics
Sir —     Last week the   Olympic Council met to select a team to compete in the Olympic games, at Melbourne next month.
When I read down the selected list of competitors I found it contained the name of a woman – a married woman.  I deplore it.
A sports field (or arena) is no place for a woman, and certainly not a “Mrs.” It is most unbecoming, unseemly, and degrading of womenfolk. It must not be countenanced on any grounds.
Pope Pius XI, emphasing [sic] the rules for separation of the sexes which the law of nature and Christian prudence demand, has declared:
“These rules must be observed also in athletics and gymnastic exercises, where special precaution must be taken in regard to Christian modesty in the case of girls, in as much as it is extremely unbecoming for them to display themselves before the public gaze.”  Encyclical Letter, Divini Illius Magistri [1939].”                                                                       Vox Populi

Well, Katie Taylor, you’ve come a long way. What I found most interesting was the proximity of the old Catholic position to that of the Saudis, Afghanis, and some Pakistani Muslims, all of which countries nevertheless had young women competing in London this year, some for the first time. How easily we forget….