This Dipsea “hike” was the first-ever cross-country U.S. sporting event organized just for women.
"FROM MY OWN observation, I believe that a woman, equally trained and in the same physical condition as a man, is more game, more tenacious and has greater endurance.” Those are the 1918 words of Olympic Club member George James, aka “the Sultan of the Dipsea.” He organized the first Women’s Dipsea Hike, a female version of the renowned scenic and grueling roughly seven-mile footrace from downtown Mill Valley over Mount Tam’s shoulder to Stinson Beach that men had been running since 1905. The new event was labeled a “hike” because Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) rules at the time banned women from distance races. The first “hike” attracted 307 entrants, and the winner was 19-year-old Edith Hickman, with the time of 1 hour 18 minutes and 48 seconds. Although the hike/race attracted more and more female entrants, along with nearly 5,000 spectators when it launched, it lasted only five years — canceled, according to historian Barry Spitz, due to “pressures from church groups [claiming] that strenuous running was somehow immoral” and physicians saying “it was dangerous to a woman’s reproductive system.” Not until 1971 were women officially allowed to participate in the Dipsea, although they’d been unofficially running in it since the 1950s. To commemorate that lengthy transition, on April 21 a hike/run marking the 100th anniversary of the 1918 event begins at 9 a.m. in Mill Valley, followed by a luncheon in the Stinson Beach Community Center. Only 500 entry spots are available; for more information, go to dipsea.org.
PHOTO OF EDITH HICKMAN, COURTESY OF BARBARA VAN MEURS (TOP RIGHT)
LUCRETIA LITTLE HISTORY ROOM, MILL VALLEY PUBLIC LIBRARY (BOTTOM)