women, ancient Greece, and boxing
Goodness knows that woman are thankful we can watch the Olympics with people who have clothes on. Over the cliff is in the past now. Women watched the boxing but did they participate in them?
Females were never allowed to take part in the ancient Greek Olympics. This rule applied to much of Greek life. Certainly, it was true of the city state of Athens. There, in the world's first pure democracy, women were excluded from citizenship. Strangely, the city of Athens was named for the goddess Athena, who represented wisdom.
In Athens, women were confined to their homes most of the time. They were only sometimes allowed to be in the audiences of dramatic plays, never at comedies. When they did attend plays, women were seated in the back rows.
In Sparta, Athens' arch enemy, women also were not leaders. But in Spartan games, females could be athletes. They could compete with men and could do so bare breasted.
The spectators at the Greek Olympics were clothed. The athletes were naked. I doubt very much if women could watch boxing. When I saw the 2004 television special about the Greek Olympics, it was with surprise that I learned that men would sometimes be allowed to bring their daughters to the games to get husbands. The fathers probably needed special permission for this. But, if so, they must have felt the effort to get the approval was worth it since Olympic competitors would have been the best catches.
Boxing was a sport that was, at least most of the time, for male only viewers as late as the early twentieth century. George Bellows' painting from
1909, Stag at Sharkey's, reveals by the "stag" in it's title that the boxing match being seen was for men only. In Thomas Eakins' paintings, Taking the Count(1898) and Between Rounds(1899), only males are seen at the prizefights. In a photograph of the last bareknuckled professional fight, in 1889
between John L.Sullivan and Jake Kilrain in Mississippi, only men are seen in the crowd around the ring.
It was not until 1921 that tickets were sold for the first time to women for a heavyweight boxing title fight. That July, Jack Dempsey defended his championship against Georges Carpentier of France. Carpentier was a handsome blonde decorated veteran of World War I. Dempsey had not served in the conflict and had been accused of being a draft dodger. The fight promoters knew that Carpentier's matinee idol looks would appeal to women.
Carpentier was actually a light-heavyweight and didn't belong in the ring with Dempsey. But he must have been offered so much money that he wouldn't turn down the fight. Carpentier landed some good punches but in the fourth round was floored twice,
the second time being counted out. Dempsey was unmarked, Carpentier bleeding.
However, business-wise the event turned out very well. It was the first world championship fight to earn a million dollars and the first to be broadcast over radio.