Wilma Rudolph (1940-1994)

Wilma Rudolph

Athlete Wilma Rudolph was born the twentieth of twenty-one children and battled polio until the age of 12, at which time she could walk normally and decided to become an athlete. While in school, she played for the basketball team, earning a full scholarship to Tennessee State University. She graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in education. Rudolph competed in the Olympics for the first time in 1956, winning a bronze medal for the 4x4 relay. She returned to the Olympics in 1960, where she became the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in the Olympics. She won the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, and ran the anchor on the 400-meter relay team. Her achievements in the Olympics led her to become one of the most celebrated female athletes of all time. She then worked as a teacher, track coach, and sports commentator and was the mother of four children. She died from brain cancer in 1994.

Additional Sources:

Web Sites:


  • Harper, Jo and Meryl Henderson. Wilma Rudolph: Olympic Runner. Aladdin, 2004. (ages 9-12)
  • Krull, Kathleen and David Diaz. Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman. Voyager Books, 2000. (ages 4-8)
  • Schraff, Anne E. Wilma Rudolph: The Greatest Woman Sprinter in History. Enslow Publishers, 2004.
  • Sherrow, Victoria. Wilma Rudolph (On My Own Biographies). Carolrhoda Books, 2000. (ages 4-8).
  • Smith, Maureen M. Wilma Rudolph: A Biography. Greenwood Press, 2006.

Works Cited:

  • Article is excerpted from a NWHM Newsletter
  • Image is from PBS