“Babe” Didrikson Zaharias (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Participating in numerous sports in which she excelled and set several records, Zaharias is recognized as the greatest woman athlete of the first half of the twentieth century.
Mildred Ella Didriksen was born June 26, 1914, in Port Arthur, Texas. Her mother, née Hannah Olson, was born in Norway and emigrated to the United States in 1908; her father, Ole Didriksen, also born in Norway, came to Port Arthur in 1905 and worked as a sailor and carpenter. Throughout her adult life she was known as Babe Didrikson, taking the name “Babe” from the sports hero Babe Ruth and the spelling of her surname, Didrikson, to emphasize that she was of Norwegian rather than Swedish ancestry.
After the 1915 hurricane which devastated Port Arthur, the family, which included her sister and two brothers, moved to nearby Beaumont. Growing up in the rugged south end of the city, Didrikson was a tomboy who shunned feminine qualities and excelled at a variety of athletic endeavors. She was slim and of average height but had a muscular body and was exceptionally well coordinated. Her hair was cut short like a boy’s, and she usually wore masculine clothing. As a youth, Didrikson had a belligerent personality and was constantly involved in fights and scrapes.
At Beaumont High School, Didrikson was outstanding at a number of sports, including volleyball, tennis, baseball, basketball, and...
(The entire section is 2010 words.)
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