Dodson Paved Way For Female Athletes

By: Whitney Holmes Email
By: Whitney Holmes Email

August 22, 2007

Every time a female athlete grunts, cheers, kicks, or throws, they have Claudia Dodson to thank.

"She stood up for me before I even knew what her name was," expressed Hannah Cather Munro, one of Claudia Dodson's colleagues.

Wednesday afternoon, Dodson was laid to rest. A pioneer for female athletics, Dodson was a driving force behind the inclusion of women in sports.

"She's the reason why anybody who is 50 years or younger is able to participate in sports in Virginia," Munro continued.

Coming on the scene a year before Title IX was signed into law, Dodson was the first woman to sit on the Virginia High School League. This position gave Dodson the power to close the gender gap in school athletics.

"One has to remember that in the seventies, it was not a cake walk to just walk in and talk about providing opportunities for girls, because the impression was that you would be taking something away from the boys," explained Stash Stanley, who is active in Dodson's group, Women In Sport, or WINS. WINS honors female athletes in the Charlottesville area.

When Dodson was hired by the VHSL in 1971, gymnastics was the only athletic competition in the state for girls. Today, due to Dodson working tirelessly behind the scenes, there are more than 30.

Her power to change the status quo came in her humble demeanor and passion for equity.

"She was the driving force," said Munro, who sits on the League today. "She was the one sitting at the table with all the men. When they said 'OK, let's add wrestling for boys,' she'd say, 'OK, what are we going to do for the girls?'"

Today, Dodson's legacy lives on any time a female steps onto the playing field.

She was 65 years old.

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