Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Linda J. Borish, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sally E. Hadden, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Gregory Veeck, Ph.D.


Gender, markswomen, olympics, shooting, sports, women

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Throughout history, women have been overlooked, discounted, and ignored for their skills and abilities as competitive and professional athletes. Competitive shooting sports were popular in the United States; however, men excluded women from participating in many of these activities until the early 19th century, when America saw the rise of famous markswomen such as Annie Oakley, Calamity Jane, and Lillian Smith. These women challenged the masculinity of the sport of shooting and bested many of their male counterparts as they traveled and performed across the United States. In the 1970s, women found themselves entering the Olympic arena of competitive shooting sports. Women such as Margaret Murdock, Pat Spurgin, and Kim Rhode achieved victories in numerous Olympic Games starting in 1976.

Historical scholarship appears to have missed the target by not focusing on women in competitive shooting sports. This thesis adds to the current scholarship on women’s history, gender history, and 20th-century sports history and develops a narrative to explain how American women advanced in competitive shooting sports in the United States. Shooting sports have a significant place in sporting history, in which American women played a key role. This study adds to the narrative of the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1970s, shows how female marksmen benefitted from the passing of Title IX of the Education Amendment Act in 1972, and illustrates how women began to excel in Olympic marksmanship.