Little Wonder: The Fabulous Story of Lottie Dod, the World's First Female Sports Superstar
A groundbreaking biography of the world's first female sports superstar, the pioneering and uncompromising Lottie Dod
"Eighty-five years before Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs fought the 'battle of the sexes, ' a Victorian teenager showed what women could do . . . Abramsky] celebrates her as a brave and talented and determined original. In sports, the battle of the sexes is far from over, but Dod won more than a few break points simply by living her own life to the fullest."
"Abramsky's reclamation of Dod's] story is a welcome addition that reminds us that women have long struggled for an equitable place in sports and that women athletes do have predecessors to look toward for encouragement in their contemporary fights for pay equity, TV coverage and respect."
"Before Serena Williams and Megan Rapinoe, there was Lottie Dod...Abramsky presents a well-researched account of a woman whose rare losses were almost more newsworthy than her consistent victories."
--Christian Science Monitor
"An adroitly written biography...Abramsky offers a fascinating portrait of the life of this forgotten sports heroine in fluid prose. Little Wonder is a worthy addition to the sports literature."
--New York Journal of Books
"Abramsky...masterfully captures the life of this little-known sportswoman, a versatile female athlete comparable to Babe Didrikson Zaharias. In an eloquently written narrative, spiced with vivid descriptions of the Victorian era and the early twentieth century, he shines a light on Dod...This fine biography makes a significant contribution to sports history and women's studies and should go a long way to bringing Dod's inspirational story to a new audience."
--Booklist, Starred review
"Abramsky combines descriptive writing with research that pulls back the curtain to reveal an athlete whose feats remain stunning 60 years after her death and more than a century after her glory days."
--New Books in History (podcast)
Lottie Dod was a truly extraordinary sports figure who blazed trails of glory in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Dod won Wimbledon five times, and did so for the first time in 1887, at the ludicrously young age of fifteen. After she grew bored with competitive tennis, she moved on to and excelled in myriad other sports: she became a leading ice skater and tobogganist, a mountaineer, an endurance bicyclist, a hockey player, a British ladies' golf champion, and an Olympic silver medalist in archery.
In her time, Dod had a huge following, but her years of distinction occurred just before the rise of broadcast media. By the outset of World War I, she was largely a forgotten figure; she died alone and without fanfare in 1960.
Little Wonder brings this remarkable woman's story to life, contextualizing it against a backdrop of rapid social change and tectonic shifts in the status of women in society. Dod was born into a world in which even upper-class women such as herself could not vote, were restricted in owning property, and were assumed to be fragile and delicate.
Women of Lottie Dod's class were expected not to work and to definitely get married. Dod never married and never had children, instead putting heart and soul into training to be the best athlete she could possibly be. Paving the way for the likes of Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, and other top female athletes of today, Dod accepted no limits, no glass ceilings, and always refused to compromise.
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About the Author
SASHA ABRAMSKY is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared over the past twenty-five years in major newspapers and magazines in the United States and United Kingdom. These include the Nation, the Atlantic, the New Yorker online, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Observer, and the New Statesman. He has written widely about poverty and inequality; hunger; mass incarceration; the treatment of immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers; along with book reviews, cultural essays, and travel writing. Little Wonder is Abramsky's ninth book. He teaches writing part-time at the University of California, Davis, and lives in Sacramento with his wife and two children.
"Sasha Abramsky's comprehensive and thoughtful portrait of Lottie Dod will challenge your assumptions of the limitations imposed on Victorian sportswomen. You will cheer for 'Little Wonder, ' a Cheshire teenager, as she tests and triumphs over competitors and stereotypes like few before her."
--Rose George, author of Nine Pints: A Journey Through the Money, Medicine, and Mysteries of Blood
"For anyone who cares about sports, feminism, and the juncture of the two, Sasha Abramsky has written an essential book. Decades before Babe Didrickson Zaharias, Billie Jean King, and Megan Rapinoe, there was Lottie Dod, the 'Little Wonder.' But who these days would have known about this athletic polymath without this fascinating biography?"
--Samuel G. Freedman, author of Letters to a Young Journalist
Critical praise for Sasha Abramsky's previous books:
for The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives:
"Abramsky has written an ambitious book that both describes and prescribes. He reaches across a wide range of issues--including education, housing and criminal justice--in a sweeping panorama of poverty's elements."
--New York Times
"The American Way of Poverty is an extremely well-researched and thorough book."
--Los Angeles Review of Books
"Sasha Abramsky's The American Way of Poverty is another fact-rich treatment of the peculiar features of U.S. poverty, a book that nicely tells it like it is."
--Chronicle of Higher Education
"[Abramsky] shows us the persistence of brute hunger, homelessness, and deprivation, but also sensitively probes the psychic wounds...The American Way of Poverty is a challenging indictment of an economy in which poverty and inequality at the bottom seem like the foundation for prosperity at the top."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"His portrait of poverty is one of great complexity and diversity, existential loneliness and desperation--but also amazing resilience...Abramsky's well-researched, deeply felt depiction of poverty is eye-opening, and his outrage is palpable."
for The House of Twenty Thousand Books:
"The House of Twenty Thousand Books lovingly recreates an intellectual milieu that was built around old books, chess games, Russian dominoes, Eastern European food, hot tea, family and long evenings spent in spirited political debate."
"Abramsky has a knack for swimming deep in the sea of ideas...[He] offers smart, concise pocket explanations of matters ranging from the effect of 18th-century French utopianism on leftist thinking to brief discourses on methodologies of Talmud study...Drawing on numerous interviews with Chimen's contemporaries and an impressively deep dive into the archives, the book grapples sensitively and honestly with how many of the conversations at 5 Hillway were conducted...In his grandson's loving, but intellectually responsible tribute, Chimen Abramsky has found his posterity."
--Wall Street Journal
"Sasha Abramsky's tender, intelligent, many-layered memoir of his grandparents, The House of Twenty Thousand Books, is...at once epic and intimate, rooted in family life but encompassing the sweep of history. At its heart are loss and renewal, tradition and reinvention, schism and continuity."
"Sasha Abramsky has produced a wonderful addition to the canon of Jewish grandchild literature: one that would be well worth its place in Chimen Abramsky's now immortal house of books."
--The Times Literary Supplement
for Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream:
"Readers interested in groupthink, sociology, or seeking insight into the current state of American politics will devour this book."
"A pensive exploration of the American culture of fear...eloquent and devastating."
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A provocative look at the science and psychology behind fear-based politics."
"Abramsky makes a convincing case that we're clearly not worried enough about what's actually commonly dangerous and preventable compared with things that are rare, unavoidable, or outright false...If this phenomenon is interesting to you, you should consider picking up this book."
--The Cascadia Advocate