Saturday, November 8, 2014

Mary and Martha DeSaussure-Twin Track Stars Break Barriers

Mary DeSaussure Sobers made history by accident. One morning in late August, 1945, she and her twin sister Martha were sent to buy groceries and were distracted by a bus bringing kids to the nearby 13th Regiment Armory. The sisters peeked inside and were told that there was a track meet being held—and did they want to run? Martha was too overwhelmed to say yes, but Mary agreed, and convinced the representative that she could run just fine in her dress and galoshes.  Mary won the race, becoming the 1st African-American female to participate in an official New York City track meet.            The Mary DeSaussure Sobers collection (2005.053) at Brooklyn Historical Society documents the groundbreaking track careers for which both sisters continue to be recognized today. They helped form the 1st black female Police Athletic League (PAL) track team in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, and participated in the Olympic tryouts in 1948. During the Sobers sisters’ running careers, New York State removed its ban on women participating in certain sports previously restricted to men, which included track.  The sisters were also among the 1st women to participate in racially integrated track meets.  As an adult, Mary helped organize and coached the Queens Trailblazers Track Club.                                           

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