When Anita DeFrantz ’74 arrived in Montreal for the 1976 Summer Olympics it was the first time women’s rowing had been included. As captain of the American team, DeFrantz won a bronze medal in women’s eight, a remarkable achievement made all the more impressive considering she was still completing her law degree at the University of Pennsylvania at the time.
In September, DeFrantz released her memoir, My Olympic Life, which recounts her career as an athlete, civil rights activist and member of the U.S. Olympic Committee Board of Directors, as well as a host of other prominent leadership roles she’s assumed over the years.
DeFrantz’ activism and leadership abilities both on and off the water blossomed while at Conn. She was elected class president her second year, chaired the student judiciary committee, created a student bill of rights, and discovered her talent for rowing.
In My Olympic Life, DeFrantz describes her experiences growing up as an African-American who had to confront the twin obstacles of racial segregation and sexism that girls and women encountered in sports. The battle-hardened determination that arose from being told she couldn’t enjoy the same rights as some of her peers, still fuels her passionate work for equality around the world today, and propelled her to become the first woman vice president of both the International Olympic Committee and the International Rowing Federation. She’s currently the seventh-ranking member on the Committee, and sits on the Executive Board. For nearly 30 years she has also been deeply involved with developing youth sports programs in Southern California, where she resides, serving as president of the youth-oriented LA84 Foundation, which was established after Los Angeles hosted the 1984 Summer Olympics.
The tangible impacts DeFrantz has made on the International Olympic community are vast, from promoting updated gender and sexual harassment policies, to pushing for the introduction of new women’s events, including soccer and softball.
My Olympic Life was released on September 26 by Klipspringer Press.