Tidye Pickett: African American Olympic Track and Field Pioneer; Essay by Robert Pruter

To illustrate concept in textOlympian Tidye Pickett exemplifies pioneering achievement for the African American athlete and for black America in general, her athletic breakthroughs that would eventually lead to the post-Civil Rights era of almost full legal and significant social integration into American society.

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Tidye Pickett, who was an outstanding product of the Chicago parks and playgrounds system, is remembered as an outstanding African American track and field runner of the 1930s. Along with Louise Stokes, they were the first African-American women to be selected for a United States Olympic team, when they won places on the track team in 1932. Pickett, along with Stokes, were also selected for the United States team for the 1936 Olympics, and Pickett became the first African American woman to actually compete in an Olympic Games. She emerged at a time when African American athletes were excluded from most amateur and professional sport competitions involving white athletes—except in high schools outside the South—but they were making significant breakthroughs in the 1930s, notably in track and field at the Olympics.

The career of Tidye Pickett exemplifies these pioneering achievements for the African American athlete and for black America in general, breakthroughs that would eventually lead to the post-Civil Rights era of almost full legal and significant social integration into American society.1

Tidye Pickett was born Theodora Ann Pickett on November 3, 1914 on the South Side of Chicago. Throughout her life she never used the name Theodora, and her nickname was variously rendered as either Tidye or Tydie. She had a distinctive name and was physically distinctive—short, light-skinned, and somewhat Asian in her looks. She was the daughter of Louis and Sarah Pickett, her father working as a foreman in a foundry and her mother working as a clerk in a factory. They lived on the South Side section of the city, in the Englewood community. She had an older brother named Charlie (by two years), but it does not appear that he participated in athletics.2

Pickett came out of the city’s great park and school playground systems, and began her running career at the South Park District-operated Washington Park program, in one of the largest parks in the city just across from her home. Her first organized team competition was when she joined the track team sponsored by the Carter School Playground. She was a small athlete, 5’ 2” tall and weighing only 104 pounds at the age of seventeen, but she exhibited remarkable speed from the time she started running in the program. In the 1929 Chicago American/Central AAU huge meet involving 1,100 girls in age groups starting at 11-12 years, Pickett running for Carter in the 13-14 years group, took a second in 50 yard dash. Pickett first came to public notice from her track work in January 1932, when she was competing for the Board of Education Playground team (a collective team from several playgrounds). She tied the 50 yard national indoor record held by the great Helen Filkey, and the Chicago Tribune made headlined its story citing her achievement, “New Playground Star Ties National 60 Yard Record.”3

During 1931-1934, Tidye Pickett was a student at Englewood High School, an integrated institution that was about one-third black when she attended. At that time, Chicago high schools did not sponsor interschool sports for girls, but they did sponsor an extensive number of intramural activities. Pickett, however, did not chose to join the basketball, field hockey, tennis, golf, gymnastics, dance group, or any other of the many intramural activities offered by the school. Instead, she followed her sports interests outside the school—which were track, tennis, and basketball—in the city’s great park and playground organizations and in the African American church-sponsored leagues. She probably found the level of competition in high school not challenging enough for someone who had considerable experience in park district programs. From the playground competitions, she soon graduated to other track meets sponsored by athletic clubs, church organizations, and YMCAs.  At a meet at an armory, she met University of Chicago track star John Brooks, who became her trainer and mentor.4

Pickett also had a notable career in basketball competing as a star player on some of the top African American women teams in the city. The biggest sports organization in the African American community was the Union Church League, or more formally the Union Sunday School Athletic Association. The interdenominational group during the 1920s, with some twenty member churches, sponsored annual championship contests in baseball and bowling. In 1930, however, the Union Church League expanded its sponsorship of sports championships with the introduction of basketball competition in three leagues—men’s heavyweight, men’s lightweight, and women. As with most women teams in the city, the church league women played under men’s rules.5

Pickett’s first year in the Union Church League, the winter season of 1929-30, at the age of 15 she was a member of the Quinn Chapel team, a middling team. The following year she moved up to a more formidable team, the Bethesda Baptist Church, which contended for the league championship, and there Pickett got her first notices. She usually played forward. In the 1931-32 season, Pickett served as captain of the team and was often the top scorer, significantly helping to make Bethesda one of the top teams in the league. The Bethesda team would disband after the 1931-32 season, and Pickett and a couple of other players on the Bethesda team would join the already formidable Pilgrim Baptist team for the 1932-33 season. The Pilgrim team, fortified by the addition of Pickett and other Bethesda players, easily swept through the Union League schedule undefeated. Pickett was considered the “floor general” of the team, and was such a prolific scorer that at season’s end she ranked second by only one point to teammate Ruth Reese among the league’s scoring leaders.6

The Pilgrim team thescussing her Olympic and track achievements. The Pilgrim Baptist team made it to the title game in the Church class, losing the championship to the Lamon Methodist Episcopal Church by only one point, 12-11. The tournament in all its classes included more than 900 teams, so this was an extraordinary feat by the Pilgrim Baptist team, providing recognition and evidence of black women’s achievement in basketball to the white population of Chicago.7

The following year, the Union Church League, while continuing the two men classes, eliminated the women’s class. There was no mention in the Chicago Defender as to why, but as the Depression wore on, organizations as well as businesses were finding it harder and harder to sustain themselves at previous levels, and one sees a significant decline in women teams at this time. Pickett graduated in June of 1934 at the age of 19. Her major was household arts. During her last year at Englewood, Pickett continued to play outside basketball. In absence of a church league, the girls reorganized the Pilgrim Baptist Church team as the Wabash Y Girls, representing the famed Wabash Avenue YMCA. The team played various local teams, but infrequently.8

To illustrate concept in text

Pickett as aa 17 year old when she broke out in public notice.

Pickett first came to the attention of the public at large in January 1932, when competing in an indoor meet sponsored by the Illinois Women’s Athletic Club (IWAC) and sanctioned by the Central AAU, she tied the national indoor record for the 60 yard dash established by Helen Filkey in 1928. The Chicago Defender hailed her achievement in a banner inch high headline—“Girl Ties World’s Track Mark.” The Chicago Tribune also made Picket’s achievement the headline for its story on the meet—“New Playground Star Ties National 60 Yard Record.” The purpose of the meet was to discover Olympic prospects, and it certainly achieved its aim in finding Pickett, competing on the Board of Education Playground team. In March, at the annual Illinois National Guard meet, Pickett again astounded the Chicago track world when she beat out two top veteran runners, Mary Terwilliger and Annette Rogers, in the 60-yard.9

Pickett, based on her track achievements during the winter, was selected to compete in the trial races to be held in Chicago in mid-July for the upcoming Los Angeles Olympics. Based on her performances, she and one other African American woman, Louise Stokes of Massachusetts, were selected to be on the women’s track team. The Chicago Defender proudly covered the meet, and made the point that Pickett and Stokes were racing against fellow white competitors, noting that, “The prejudiced South would not have permitted these two stars to enter a race with their white sisters.” The paper was proud of Pickett’s achievement and repeatedly ran items and her picture almost weekly after her breakthrough 60-yard indoor record in January.1o

The selection of the 16 women for the LA Games based on the trials was far less set in stone than the newspaper reports indicated. The New York Times and other papers, using the AP report, said that the results of the 100 meters produced six members of the team—the top three for the 100 meters event and the bottom three for the 400-meter relay event. That theoretically meant that Louise Stokes who tied with Mary Carew for fourth place and Tidye Pickett who took sixth place qualified for the 400-meter event. Beat out and in seventh place was one of the top runners, Evelyn Furtsch, who tripped and fell on the uneven cinder surface while battling for the lead near the finish line. Theoretically she did not qualify, but at the behest of an influential team chaperone who appealed to the U.S. Olympics committee, Furtsch was placed on the team while her teammates were on the train to Los Angeles. Another top Chicago athlete, Annette Rogers, made the Olympic team as a result of her third place position in the high jump. But Rogers was also a top runner, and it appears that Olympic officials took that into account in her selection. The selection process was obviously fluid, but members of the Olympic team possibly had the impression that their places and the team were set and final. That impression would change once they got to Los Angeles.11

Despite the relative racial fairness in the North, the 1932 Olympics proved disappointing and humiliating to Pickett and for her African American teammate, Louise Stokes, and their sense of racial identity. On the train trip to Los Angeles, the two faced their first humiliation, when at the overnight stop in Denver at the Brown Palace Hotel they experienced various snubs and discriminations. The hotel honored the Olympic team with a banquet, but the two African American members were not allowed to share the experience, being forced to eat their meal in their room. And instead of being housed in the same area as the rest of the team, Pickett and Stokes were separated and placed in a room near a service area on an upper floor.

Pickett said bitterly, “All the other girls had private rooms, went to the banquet, were interviewed by reporters. Louise and I ared a room in the attic and ate our dinners upstairs on trays.” Olympic officials did not challenge the hotel’s action. Back on the train, Pickett was doused by a pitcher of ice water while sleeping in her compartment by the racist and generally obnoxious Babe Didrikson, the highly talented all-around athlete who would win world fame in the Los Angeles Olympics. Notwithstanding that Didrikson was an equal-opportunity abuser of her teammates, her well-known racism and that her attack on Pickett was particularly nasty, made it a racial humiliation. Pickett, who was interviewed by two Chicago papers in 1984, reported that “there were a few athletes and team officials who did not hide their bigotry.”12

The greatest humiliation for Pickett and Stokes took place after the team arrived in Los Angeles. After two weeks of running trial sprints under Coach George Vreeland by the eight runners considered eligible for the 400-meter relay, both Pickett and Stokes were then designated as alternates and would not be competing. They had to sit on the sidelines and watch their teammates win medals. Pickett and Stokes, and many black journalists, felt that two less qualified white runners (Mary Carew and Evelyn Furtsch) had been moved ahead of them in the selection process. According to 1932 Olympics historian, Doris H. Pieroth, however, Carew and Furtsch had each demonstrated abilities that Vreeland was looking for—Carew with unusually quick starts and Furtsch with “speed and dexterity with the baton.” The other selectees—Billie von Bremen and Annette Rogers demonstrated the fastest speed. The assumption in the African American community at the time was that the exclusion from the Olympics of both athletes was for a racial reason. Pickett has been quoted as saying that, “I knew I was better than some of them. It was politics. Politics and sports, sports and politics, they’ve always gone together.”—“politics” obviously her code word for racial discrimination.13 

An examination of the records during the year and the Olympic trials show that Pickett and Stokes were roughly equal to their white counterparts, but based on results where a one-tenth of a second could be used for determination of who is in or who is out, their white counterparts had a slight edge. Aside from their achievements during the two weeks of trials in LA, during the year both Furtsch and Carew had produced better times than Pickett and Stokes had in both the 100-meter and the 100-yard races, as did Rogers and Von Bremen. Peiroth, who had interviewed all the living participants in the 400-meter drama, felt that making a black and white judgment (so to speak) on the question as to whether racial discrimination played a part in the issue was not possible.14

After the 1932 Olympics, Pickett continued to be engaged in athletics in Chicago. She joined the Algonquin Athletic Club, and became its vice president and hosted a meeting of the club at her South Side home. Most of the members appeared to be her fellow basketball players—Mattie Steele, Zadie Lloyd, and Rosa Reese notably. During the winter of 1932-33, she was competing in playground track competition as well as in national AAU meets. At that time, more than 700 girls were participating in indoor track in the South Park District, which sponsored sports at eighteen playgrounds. In February, Pickett was one of five girls from the South Park District at the national AAU indoor meet at Madison Square Garden, where she competed for the Carter Playground. Pickett did not have a good season in 1933, beginning with being eliminated for the finals in the 50-meter dash at the national indoors. In the national AAU outdoor meet held in Soldier Field in July, she was shut out in all her sprint events. Pickett was active in tennis during these years, although she never competed at the level of Chicago’s elite African American players. She hosted and helped form a tennis club in August of 1933, in which John Brooks was elected as president.15

Possibly because of her disappointing track season the previous year in the sprints, Pickett in the winter of 1933-34 began to train and compete in hurdles. She trained for months in the Eighth Regiment Armory with her coach John Brooks. In April, Pickett competing as part of a combined entry of Lincoln Park and the South Park districts ran in the women’s National AAU indoor competition in Brooklyn. She did poorly, however, finishing fourth in the 50-meters hurdles. In the last indoor meet of the season, however, in Chicago, at the annual regimental track and field championship, Pickett set a world mark for a 40-yard dash, a success that anticipated an excellent summer for her.16 

To illustrate concept in text

Tydie Pickett teamed up with Annette Rogers, Doris Anderson, and Mary Terwilliger on the Chicago Park District 440 yard relay team to set a world’s record in Canada in 1935

Compared to the previous year, Pickett had a great competitive summer in 1934, beginning as a member of a combined Chicago parks team, the Highland Park Athletic Club, which competed at the Toronto Centennial games. There Pickett broke the Canadian record in the broad jump, clearing an impressive 18 feet, 1 ½ inches, ran on the Chicago relay team that set a new Canadian record, won the 60-meter dash, and finished second in the 80-meter hurdles. The broad jump achievement put Picket among the best in the world. At the Central AAU meet in August, Pickett representing South Parks took the broad jump, the 80-meter hurdles, and the 100-meter run. The 100-meter victory was especially satisfying as Pickett beat two runners whom she had always trailed, Annette Rogers and Mary Terwilliger. For Pickett, 1934 was a very good year.17

In 1935 Pickett continued her stellar performances, first with three outstanding indoor meets, the Central AAU annual indoor in Chicago, and two indoor meets in Hamilton and Toronto, Canada. In Chicago, Pickett won the 100 meters, took the 80-meters, and captured the broad jump. At Hamilton and Toronto, the Chicago Park District team won both meets. Pickett teamed up with Annette Rogers, Doris Anderson, and Mary Terwilliger, to set a world’s record in the 440-yard relay twice, first in Hamilton at 52.2 seconds and then in Toronto at 51.8 seconds. Pickett’s individual achievements included winning the 50-yard at both Hamilton and Toronto. Pickett did not compete in the AAU indoor national at St. Louis in 1935. That year, the Chicago Park District split up its team—half to compete in St. Louis and half to compete in Canada—and both teams won their meets. At the Central AAU outdoor meet in August, Pickett took second behind Annette Rogers in the 100-meters and finished first in the in the 80-meter hurdles. Pickett had established herself as one of the top female runners in the country and a strong prospect for the 1936 Olympics.18

To illustrate concept in text

Chicago Defender cartoon in 1935 showing her athletic versatility.

Pickett launched her 1936 track season most auspiciously, when at the indoor nationals in St. Louis in February, which the Chicago Park District won for the third year in a row, she brought points to her team in winning the 50-meter hurdles. At the Central AAU indoor meet, however, Pickett experienced a slight dip, when she took fourth in the 50-meter dash behind Helen Stephens, Annette Rogers, and Mary Terwilliger; and took second in her new specialty, the 50-meter low hurdles, to veteran runner Evelyne Ruth Hall.  Pickett recovered her excellence in the Central AAU outdoor meet at Stagg Field in Chicago, winning the 50-meter dash and the long jump (with a stellar 17 ¾ feet). She took second to Hall in the 80-meter hurdles, however.19

At the national outdoor championship at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, which also served as the Olympic Trials, Pickett earned a sure spot on the Olympic team by taking second in the 80-meter hurdles, and was expected to compete in the 100-meter run and the 400-meter relay. Her achievement in the hurdles was especially impressive because she severely bruised the ankle on her trailing foot on the seventh hurdle. This would prove ominous for Pickett at the Games in Berlin, Germany.20

To illustrate concept in text.

Tydie Pickett (second row, right end) with the U.S. Olympic women team in 1936.

The 1936 Berlin Olympics were perhaps the most controversial of all the Games, as it was hosted by a violent and totalitarian regime under the aggressively anti-Semitic and racist Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Leading up to the Games, contentious debates swirled around the Olympics-discussions in western democracies, notably the United States, over whether or not to boycott the Games. Eventually the United States did choose to participate, and the 1936 Olympics became a stage by which the black athletes from the United States, led by Jesse Owens, excelled, and thereby were remembered famously as rebuffing the racial theories of Nazism. Tidye Pickett was surely no stranger to the larger politics in her attending the Games, as in the African American press a raging debate arose, reflecting the same division in the mainstream press, over United States participation or not. Her hometown paper, the Chicago Defender, regularly covered the German Nazi regime since the assent of Adolf Hitler in 1933, often referring to “Nazi racial hatred.” This reporting heated up in June of 1936, just prior to the Berlin Games, in the coverage of the first Joe Louis-Max Schmeling fight, as the Defender and other black papers reported on Nazis racial attitudes regarding Joe Louis and blacks in America.

The Nazi attitudes became especially hurtful after Louis lost his match to Schemling. The concern before the Olympics was on how the German regime would treat African American athletes at the Games. The Defender and other black papers often reminded white Americans that in their defense of the Jews in the participation debate they should not forget the racism in the United States. The Defender cited the exclusion of two black athletes on the United States relay teams in 1932, Jimmy Johnson and Tidye Pickett, as examples of home country racism.21

Leading up to the Olympics the black community expressed some concern about how their athletes would be treated in Germany, but much to their surprise and delight, the black athletes were treated well by the German people. The black athletes discovered that the German people were “extremely courteous and hospitable” to them the whole time they were there. The Chicago Defender in an article entitled, “Olympic Stars Given Welcome in Berlin; Prejudice Missing as Athletes Arrive,” explained that the Nazis serving as hosts were on their best behavior because for “a group of members to be slighted, segregated, or discriminated against would be a blot on the international sports horizon which might bring about political complications.” In the few interviews conducted with Pickett, she never mentioned encountering any racial problems in Germany.22

Pickett was expected to do well in the 1936 Olympics. She was one of four women competitors to have had her voyage fare to Germany sponsored. Pickett was scheduled to compete in the hurdles, the sprint relay, and the 100-meter run, and was expected to pick up some medals. Unfortunately, an accident in the semi-finals hurdles ended her Olympic career. Pickett in the hurdle races had been catching hurdles with her trailing foot, and was working to correct the problem with fellow competitors, Chicagoan Ralph Metcalfe and Jesse Owens. While the hurdles in the United States would fall over if she caught one with her trailing foot, the ones in the Berlin Olympics did not. In the semi-finals Pickett not only caught her foot on one of the hurdles she broke it while falling down in the race, ending her Olympic participation.23

Pickett noticed a difference between her treatment in 1932 and her treatment in 1936 by U.S. Olympic officials. Again Louise Stokes was the only other black female track Olympian, and Pickett said she noticed a difference in the reception the two received, telling the Chicago Tribune in 1984: “It was better in 1936 than in ’32. The coaches and all of them in charge were different in 1936, and they were nicer to us.”24

To illustraate concept in text.

Tydie Pickett yearbook photo at university

A year after finishing high school, Pickett entered Illinois State Normal University, in Bloomington, Illinois, in the fall of 1935. Her initial plans to attend American Physical Education College were put aside for a more upscale institution. Her major was health and physical education. Like most institutions of higher learning, Normal did not sponsor outside competitive teams for women, but did provide an extensive intramural program. Pickett surprisingly did not participate on the basketball team, but was a member of the field hockey team. In her first term her junior year, Pickett served as the student head of all women’s athletic activities. She was also a member and served as secretary for the Orchesis, the school’s interpretative dance group. During her Freshman year, Pickett helped prepare for the Olympics by working with the Illinois State men’s track coach, Joe Cogdal. In September of 1939, the Chicago Defender in a story on what had become of the 1936 black Olympians, reported that Pickett was unemployed and needed money to finish her last year at Illinois Normal.25 

Pickett’s track career was over after the 1936 Olympics, although she participated in a few meets. But she resumed her basketball playing in 1939, joining the Bivins All Stars, which was a team that had evolved from the Club Store Coeds, the team she had briefly joined when they came together in December of 1934. The Coeds under promoter and Coach Dick Hudson soon emerged as the top African American female team in Chicago. Hudson turned the team into a barnstorming pro team like the Harlem Globetrotters. Hudson renamed his team as the “Roamer Girls,” naming them after the legendary female black team of the 1920s and early 1930s. Hudson from 1935 through 1938 annually made trips through the western half of the United States, hitting small towns and billing his Roamer Girls as “national colored girl champions” or some variation. This team played both men’s and women’s teams.26

In December 1939, when Pickett joined the team, it had a new sponsor, Matthew Bivins Jr, and a new name, the Bivins All Stars. The team was a novelty act like the Harlem Globetrotters, playing men’s and boys teams, and often beating them. The team was highly skilled but was usually not competitive, so its local town opponents usually played with restrictions, notably forced to shoot more than fifteen feet away and not being able to follow their ball. In the 1940-41 season, the team under new sponsorship adopted the name “Co-eds” or “Chicago Co-eds,” but within weeks adopted the name “Chocolate Co-eds.” Being a novelty team, the Co-eds would joke around that do silly and entertaining tricks with the basketball. They claimed to have the “tallest lady in the world” and the ‘fastest girl runner in the world,” meaning Tidye Pickett. Sometimes at half-time Pickett would do a sprint demonstration.27

Pickett during her barnstorming years was married, having wed Gail Russell Eldredge back in October of 1939. He was thirteen years older than Pickett and worked as a janitor in the Chicago Public Schools system. The 1940 census had Pickett and her husband living in a residence along with two children of her husband from a previous relationship, her brother and his family, and her mother, Sarah Hagans, who had apparently remarried. Pickett was listed as having completed three years of college, and of having earned 480 dollars for 26 weeks of work for the previous year. She was not listed as being employed anywhere, and the amount of income probably reflected some or much of her basketball earnings.28

Pickett ended her basketball career after the 1940-41 season, ending her competitive sports career and her identity as a sports figure. She settled down as a housewife, soon to become a pregnant housewife. She had her first child from the Eldredge marriage in August of 1942. Sometime in the 1940s, Pickett returned to school to get a degree in teaching, graduating from Pestalozzi Froebel Teachers College. In her personal life she ended her marriage with Gail Eldredge, and while teaching in school married one of her fellow teaching colleagues, Frank Phillips, and raised three daughters.29

In 1956, Pickett earned an MS degree in Education from Northern Illinois University. In September 1957, Pickett joined the teaching staff at the Cottage Grove Elementary School in East Chicago Heights (later Ford Heights), a small impoverished African American community in the south suburbs. After one year of teaching at Cottage Grove, she moved to Woodlawn School in the same district to serve as principal. She served as principal of Woodlawn School for 23 years.30

Pickett’s legacy has been remembered in various awards and recognitions she received over the years. In 1973, Illinois State University (formerly Illinois State Normal University), inducted Picket into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Of the thirteen inductees that year one other was of African American heritage, football player Roosevelt Banks. In 1980, upon her retirement from her position as principal of Woodlawn School, she was honored with the school being renamed the Tidye A. Pickett School.31

In August 1984, the United States hosted the Olympic Games at Los Angeles, returning to the city of the 1932 Olympics, and Chicago’s two local papers, the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times used the occasion to write a human-interest story on Tidye Pickett, who was there and remembered the Olympics. The papers obtained Pickett’s views on both the 1932 and 1936 Olympics, in which she recounted the bigotry of the 1932 Games and the disappointing injury of the 1936 Games. The Sun-Times story captured the gist, however, when it reported that she was rooting for the USA while watching the 1984 Olympics, but in 1932 it was “hard for her to feel so patriotic.” After some years of failing health, Pickett died a little more than two years later, on November 22, 1986, at the age of 72.32

Tidye Pickett is remembered fondly as a pioneer in African American achievement, who along with Louise Stokes ranks as the first black women from the United States to be selected for an Olympic team in 1932, and singly as the first African American woman to compete on Olympic team in 1936. Pickett neatly summed up her legacy to the Sun-Times thusly, “The girls who came on later didn’t have to face the same things. They had a lot to thank us for. We took a lot for them. We really opened the door for them, but I was glad it was opened.”33

Footnotes

1. This profile on Tidye Pickett is a more succinct biography of an issue previously appeared as “Tidye Pickett: The Unfufilled Aspirations of American Pioneering African American Female Track Star,” in a collection of essays edited by Gerald R. Gems, Before Jackie Robinson: The Transcendent Role of Black Sporting Pioneers, Lincoln, NB: University of Nebrasca, 2017.

2.  Fourteenth Census of the United States 1920–Population, Bureau of the Census, Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, Ward 30, Enumeration District 1858; .Sheet 6A (Washington DC: National Archives and Records Administration), 1992.

3.  Leo Fischer, “Betty Robinson Ties Two Records in Meet,” Chicago American, 22 June 1929; Betty Eckersall, “New Playground Star Ties National 60 Yard Record,” Chicago Tribune, 31 January 1932; “Girl Ties World’s Track Mark,” Chicago Defender, 6 February 1932; Pieroth, p.32.

‘4.  Doris H. Pieroth, Their Day in the Sun: Women of the 1932 Olympics (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1996), pp. 149-156; Purple and White 1933 (Chicago: Englewood High School, 1933), pp. 126-132.

5.  “History of the U.S.S. Athletic Association,” 1927 Intercollegian Wonder Book or 1779-The Negro in Chicago-1927, edited by Frederic H. Robb, p. 76 (Chicago: The Washington Intercollegiate Club of Chicago, 1927); “Church Girl Cagers Open season, Feb. 5,” Chicago Defender, 18 January 1930.

6.  “Church League Girl 5s in 3 Fast Tilts,” Chicago Defender, 8 February 1930; “Women’s Sports,” Chicago Defender, 1 March 1930; Edward Ervin, “ Women’s Sports,” Chicago Defender, 7 February 1931; “Pilgrim Boys, Girls Lead in Race for Sunday School Flag,” Chicago Defender, 6 February 1932; “Leaders Win as Church Teams Near Final Round of Tourney,” Chicago Defender, 5 March 1932; “Sunday Schools Start Cage Play,” Chicago Defender, 17 December 1932; “Pilgrim Girls Win Church Basketball Title; Unbeaten,” Chicago Defender, 18 February1933; “Church Cagers Near Finals,” Chicago Defender, 25 February 1933; “Pilgrim Girls Reach Cage Finals,” Chicago Defender, 18 March 1933.

7.  “Pilgrim S. S. Five Stages Game Monday,” Chicago Defender, 11 February 1933; “Pilgrim Girls Reach Cage Finals,” Chicago Defender, 18 March 1933; Leo Fischer, “Chicago American Cagers Continue Thrillers in American Title Play,” Chicago American, 9 March 1933; Leo Fischer, “Five More Title Games End Cage Meet Tonight,” Chicago American, 18 March 1933; “Pilgrim Girls Reach Cage Finals’,” Chicago Defender, 18 March 1933.

8.  “Graduates of the High School Department: Englewood, Four-Year Courses,” Proceedings of the Board of Education, July 12, 1933 to July 3, 1934 (Chicago: Board of Education, [1934]), p. 1502; “Y.M.C.A. League Stages Hot Tilts,” Chicago Defender, 23 December 1933.

9.  Betty Eckersall, “New Playground Star Ties National 60 Yard Record,” Chicago Tribune, 31 January 1932; “Girl Ties World’s Track Mark: Tidye Pickett Equal Record Set by Filkey,” Chicago Defender, 6 February 1932; Jimmie Williams, “Ralph Metcalfe, Miss Pickett Steal Show in Track Meet Here,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 6 March 1932.

10. “Wins Dash Event,” Chicago Defender, 5 March 1932; “Runs Next Week,” Chicago Defender, 11 June 1932; “Sprint Stars Win in Olympic Tryouts,” Chicago Defender, 23 July 1932; “Chicago Girl in Olympics,” Chicago Defender, 23 July 1932.

11.  Pieroth, pp. 23-24.

12.  Pieroth, pp. 43-46; “Miss Didrikson the One-Girl Track Team, Heads U.S. Squad of 16 Named for Olympics,” New York Times, 18 July 1932; “Girl Clerk to Lead Women’s Olympic Team,” Cumberland Sunday Times, 17 July 1932; “Babe Didrikson, One Girl Team, Captures Meet,” Chicago Tribune, 17 July 1932.

13.  Cindy Himes Gissendanner, ”African American Women Olympians : The Impact of Race, Gender, and Class Ideologies, 1932-1968,” Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport 67, no. 2 (June 1986), pp. 173-74; Pickett quote from Pieroth, p. 47; Jody Homer, “Pioneer from 1932 Remains Undaunted: U.S. Team’s 1st Black Woman,” Chicago Tribune, 10 August 1984; Toni Ginnetti, “Ex-track Star Recalls Racism at ’32 Games,” Chicago Sun-Times, 5 August 1984.

14.  Peiroth, pp. 110-11; Gissendanner, pp. 173-74; Homer, “Pioneer from 1932,” Rita Liberti, “’Ás Girls See It’: Writing Sport on the Margins of the Black Press,” Race in American Sports: Essays, edited by James L. Conyers, Jr. ( Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2014), pp. 5-20.

15.  “Algonquin Athletic Club Feted by Vice President,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 5 November 1932; “Modern Miss Rivals Brother at South Park,” Chicago Tribune, 5 February 1933; “U. S. Track Honors to Chicago Women,” New York Times, 26 February 1933; “I.W.A.C. Takes Women’s Title with 42 Points,” Chicago Tribune, 1 July 1933; “Phil Edwards Beaten in A. A. U. Half-Mile Event,” Chicago Defender, 8 July 1933; “Tennis Stars Meet and Form Club to Entertain Guests,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 12 August 1933.

16. “Tidye Pickett Will Compete in Girls Hurdle Races Now,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 20 January 1934; “Bring Championship to Chicago,” Chicago Tribune, 16 April 1934; “Tidye Pickett Sets New Mark for 40 Yards,” Chicago Defender, 5 May 1934; Louise Mead Tricard, American Women’s Track and Field: A History, 1895 through 1980 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1985),  pp. 216-17.

17.  “Chicago Girls Win in Toronto Games,” New York Times, 3 July 1934; “Tidye Pickett Smashes Canadian Track Mark,” Pittsburgh Courier. 14 July 1934; “Tidye Pickett Is Star of City Track Meet,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 11 August 1934; Lincoln Park Girls Win Two Track Titles,” Chicago Tribune, 5 August 1934; Cowe, p. 147.

18.  “Tydie (sic) Pickett Stars As Locals Win Track Meets,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 30 March 1935; “Betty Robinson Wins Dash in C.A.A.U. Meet,” Chicago Tribune, 11 August 1935; “Winnipeg Girl Is Holder of Two Canadian Records,” Winnipeg Free Press, 20 November 1935; “Tydie (sic) Pickett To be Honored at Big Benefit,” Chicago Defender, 6 July 1935; “Tydie (sic) Pickett Will be Tendered Testimonial,” Chicago Defender, 27 July 1935.

19. “Three Titles Won by Miss Stephens,” New York Times, 13 February 1936; “Helen Stephens Ties World Sprint Mark in A.A.U. Meet,” Chicago Tribune, 26 March 1936; “Tydie (sic) Pickett Wins in Women’s A.A.U.,” Chicago Defender, 20 June 1936.

20.  Tricard, p. 229.

21.  For a detailed and illuminating discussion of the black press treatment of the 1936 Olympics, see David K. Wiggins essay, “The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin,” pp. 61-79; “Latest Hitler Edict Seeks to Keep German Blood ‘Pure’,” Chicago Defender, 14 October 1933; “U. S. Defends Jews in the Olympics; How About Race?,” Chicago Defender, 25 November 1933; “Hitler Attacks the Louis and Schmeling Battle,” Chicago Defender, 18 April 1936.

22.  Joe Jefferson, “Olympic Stars Given Welcome in Berlin; Prejudice Missing as Athletes Arrive,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 1 August 1936; Wiggins, p. 73; David Clay Large, Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936, New York: W. W. Norton, 2007, p. 234.

23.  Large, pp. 228-34.

24. Homer, “Pioneer from 1932.”

25.  “Tidye Pickett, Normal Girl, Shows Real Form,” Pantagraph, 13 February 1936; The Index Volume 47 (Normal, IL: Illinois State University, 1937), pp. 77, 288; The Index Volume 48, (Normal, IL: Illinois State University, 1938), pp. 11, 149, 211; Frank A. “Fay” Young, “What Has Become of Our U. S. Olympic Heroes?,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 9 September 1939.

26.  “Basketball,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 1 December 1934; “Will Play Colored Girls,” Estherville Daily News, 29 January 1935; “Girls Basketball Team Will Meet Lucerne Club,” Logansport Pharos-Tribune, 7 January 1938.

27.  “Hilbert Cagers Win Two Games,” Sheboygan Press, 19 December 1939; Brown, “Crude, Unscrupulous Matt Bivins Was Known As Playboy of Policy,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 13 September 1952; “Jacks Play Negro Girls Tonight,” Lethbridge Herald, 18 January 1941; “Cardston Leafs Beat Negro Girls,” Lethbridge Herald, 20 January 1941; “Raymond Trounces Negro Co-eds 53-33,” Lethbridge Herald, 21 January 1941; “Harts to Battle Chocolate Coeds in Tuesday Tilt,” Post-Register, 27 January 1941; “Harts, Surgeons Win Cage Tilts,” Post-Register, 29 January 1941.

28.  “Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959,” index and images, FamilySearch [https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/QV9M-6H4V]: accessed 25 July 2014), Gail Russell Eldredge and Tidye Anne Pickett, 23 Oct. 1939, citing County; FHL microfilm oo2416447; Sixteenth Census of the United States: 1940 Population Schedule, Bureau of the Census, Illinois, Cook County, Chicago, Ward 5, Enumeration District 103-306, Sheet 14A (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012).

29.  “Honored at Shower,” Chicago Defender (nat. ed.), 15 August 1942; Homer, “Pioneer from 1932;” Pieroth, p. 134.

30.  Bernita D. Lucas, “Tidye Pickett Biography,” F.U.T.U.R.E Foundation Chicago’s Southland Dollars for Scholars [http://www.future.dollarsforscholars.org], accessed 26 July 2014; Homer, “Pioneer from 1932.”

31.  “ISU to Induct Ten (sic) in Hall of Fame Ceremony,” Chicago Defender, 15 September 1973; Lucas, “Tidye Pickett Biography.”

32.  Homer, “Pioneer from 1932;” Ginnetti, “Ex-track star.”

33.  Ginnetti, “Ex-track star.”

This entry was posted in African American Women, Amateur Women's Basketball, Amateur Women's Sports, Amateur Women's Track & Field, Chicago Olympians and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tidye Pickett: African American Olympic Track and Field Pioneer; Essay by Robert Pruter

  1. Pingback: Evelyne Ruth Hall: Up from Poverty to Olympic Glory: Essay by Robert Pruter | The World of Early Amateur & Youth Sports in Chicago

  2. Pingback: Betty Robinson: The Face of Chicago Women’s Track and Field; Essay By Robert Pruter | The World of Early Amateur & Youth Sports in Chicago

  3. Pingback: Annette Rogers: The Overlooked Chicago Olympian; Essay by Robert Pruter | The World of Early Amateur & Youth Sports in Chicago

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