Betty Robinson

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Betty Robinson
Betty Robinson 2.jpg
Personal information
BornAugust 23, 1911
Riverdale, Illinois, U.S.[1]
DiedMay 18, 1999(1999-05-18) (aged 87)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.[1]
Height5 ft 5 12 in (166 cm)
Weight126 lb (57 kg)
ClubICCW, Chicago[1]
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)60 m – 5.8 (1929)
100 m – 12.0 (1928)
200 m – 25.5 (1931)[2]

Elizabeth R. Schwartz (née Robinson; August 23, 1911 – May 18, 1999) was an American athlete and winner of the first Olympic 100 m for women.[1]

Robinson was born in Riverdale, Illinois, and was a student at Thornton Township High School when she achieved national acclaim as an Olympic champion. Robinson ran her first official race on March 30, 1928, at the age of 16, an indoor meet where she finished second to Helen Filkey in the 60-yard dash.[3] At her next race, outdoors at 100 meters, she equalled the world record, though her time was not recognized because it was deemed wind-aided.[4]

At the Amsterdam Olympics, her third 100 m competition, Robinson reached the final and won, equalling the world record. She was the inaugural Olympic champion in the event, since athletics for women had not been on the program before, and its inclusion was in fact still heavily disputed among officials. With the American 4×100 meters relay team, Robinson added a silver medal to her record.

At Northwestern University, she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.[5][better source needed]

In 1931, Robinson was involved in a plane crash, and was severely injured. Initial reports had her being discovered unconscious in the wreckage, wrongly thought dead by her rescuer. Actually, the man merely thought she was beyond saving. He took her to Oak Forest infirmary, locally known as the "The Poor Farm", because he knew the undertaker.[6] Doctors determined she had suffered severe multiple injuries.[7] It was another six months before she could get out of a wheelchair, and two years before she could walk normally again.[8] Meanwhile, she missed the 1932 Summer Olympics in her home country.

Still unable to kneel for a normal 100 m start, Robinson was a part of the US relay team at the 1936 Summer Olympics. The US team was running behind the heavily favored Germans, but the Germans dropped the baton. Robinson took the lead and handed off the baton to Helen Stephens resulting in her second Olympic gold medal.[9][1]

Retiring after the Berlin Olympics, Schwartz remained involved in athletics as an official.[1] She died aged 87, suffering from cancer and Alzheimer's disease.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Betty Robinson.
  2. ^ Elizabeth Robinson.
  3. ^ Eric L. Cowe (2005) Early Women's Athletics: Statistics and History, Volume Two, privately printed, ISBN 9780953703005, p. 69.
  4. ^ Gergen 2014, p. 12.
  5. ^ "Kappa Kappa Gamma".
  6. ^ Karen Rosen (April 28, 2015). "Betty Robinson: The Olympic Gold Medalist Who "Came Back From The Dead"". Team USA. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  7. ^ Roseanne Montillo (2017) "Fire on the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women", Crown, ISBN 9781101906156, pp. 3-5, 125-30
  8. ^ Gergen 2014.
  9. ^ Gergen 2014, pp. 146-7.


  • Gergen, Joe (2014). First Lady of Olympic Track: The Life and Times of Betty Robinson. Northwestern University Press. ISBN 978-0810129580.

Further reading[edit]

  • Gergen, Joe. (2014) First Lady of Olympic Track: The Life and Times of Betty Robinson. Northwestern University Press.

Preceded by
Kinue Hitomi
Women's 100 m world record holder
June 2, 1928 – June 5, 1932
Succeeded by
Tollien Schuurman