Women were forbidden to participate in the ancient Greek Olympics. A married woman who was caught as a spectator could even face execution.
But these women held their own festival to honor the goddess Hera every five years - only one athletic event was held: a short footrace.
When the Olympic Games were revived in 1896, the founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin, still did not agree with women's participation. He and many other men deemed that women's health would be damaged if they competed, and that women's sports were simply not popular enough.
It wasn't until 1900 in Paris that women took part in the Games. That year Britain's Charlotte Cooper became the first female gold medalist in the tennis singles competition. Only one other sport saw women's participation: golf.
The road to equality at the Olympics has been a long and bumpy one. But women's perseverance finally paid off - this year at the London Olympics, women exceed men in the number of athletes on the United States team and have walked away with an impressive number of gold medals.
As most Western New Yorkers know, one of those gold medalists hails from Fredonia.
Back when I was getting my master's from Fredonia State in 2008, Jenn Suhr (then, Stuczynski) won the silver in the pole vault competition in the Beijing games. In the four years that followed, her unyielding determination through a debilitating illness and other physical injuries mirrors the kind of resolve women have had for over a century. When I saw Suhr defeat Russian two-time gold medalist, Yelena Isinbayeva, I thought it was a great way to ring in the 40th anniversary of Title IX.
President Richard Nixon signed the law on June 23, 1972. Title IX of the Education Amendments provides that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."
By endorsing a broad interpretation of Title IX at crucial moments over the years, the supreme court has played a critical role in making that law the powerful force for women's advancement, most famously in athletics.
In the United States, Women swimmers had their most successful meet since the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which were boycotted by many of the top Eastern European swimmers. This year's women won 14 medals overall, and eight golds, a huge improvement over the two they won in Beijing and three they won in Athens. Additionally, the team even had a female coach for the first time, University of California's Teri McKeever.
Venus and Serena Williams now have more gold medals than any tennis players in Olympic history after their third doubles gold.
Meanwhile, over in gymnastics, the American women proved to be the most successful U.S. team in history. Gabby Douglas won gold in the all-around competition, and also joined forces with Aly Raisman, Jordyn Wieber, McKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross to win the team gold medal.
I consider other women of the world who are now allowed to compete because of women's refusal to tame their dreams. Most notably this year, under pressure from the International Olympic Committee, Saudi Arabia broke its practice of fielding male-only teams by entering Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and Sarah Attar in track and field.
No matter what they place, no matter where they're from, I feel an overwhelming sense of pride for all the women athletes who compete in the 2012 Olympics. What a special honor it is to have one from our neck of the woods!