Dame Marea Hartman 1920 – 1994

Athlete, Official, Honorary Secretary of the WAAA, President of AAA of England, MBE, CBE, DBE

Known to many as “the first lady of athletics”, Marea Hartman was an influential figure in women’s athletics both nationally and internationally. She served the WAAA for 41 years and was its Honorary Secretary from 1960 to 1991.

In her role as Chairman of the Women’s Commission of the IAAF (International Amateur Athletic Federation) she influenced the development of women’s athletics internationally, successfully pushing for more events to be added to the women’s programme, including the 400m hurdles, the 1500m and 3000m.

Gladys Marea Hartman was born in June 1920 in London. Her father was Swiss and her parents both worked in the hotel catering trade. Whilst studying Economics at the University of London she joined Spartan Ladies AC and had some success as a sprinter. During the war she served in the Army Welfare Division. Her fiancé was killed in the war, and she never married.

Dame Marea Hartman, 1988
Photograph courtesy of Mark Shearman

In 1945, Hartman became Honorary Treasurer of Spartan Ladies AC. This marked the beginning of a lifelong career as an administrator of women’s athletics. Five years later, she was appointed Honorary Treasurer of the WAAA and held this post until 1960 when she became Honorary Secretary. She was also Vice-Chairman from 1980 to 1991.

Hartman also served on the British Amateur Athletic Board which was responsible for international competition by British home nations, and the Executive Committee of the Central Council of Physical Recreation, which was an umbrella body for sport governing bodies.

She was Team Manager for the English and British women’s athletics teams from 1956 to 1978, covering six Olympic Games as well as European Championships and British Empire/Commonwealth Games. The 1960s was one of the most successful periods in British women’s athletics with the highlight of two gold medals at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Marea Hartman (right) and Princess Anne watching an event at the WAAA Championships at Alexander Stadium, Birmingham,1986.
Photograph courtesy of Mark Shearman

Hartman estimated that she spent around 35 hours a week on athletics administration. All these roles were unpaid and alongside them she had a full-time job as a personnel officer. In a profile in The Times in 1972, she is reported as saying “If I wasn’t single I wouldn’t be able to do it all.”

Hartman was energetic, enjoyed what she was doing and liked to have fun. She was an astute negotiator, determined and patient, and her charm helped her to win people over. She had strong moral principles. She was widely respected as a dedicated and excellent administrator who was also sympathetic towards athletes.

When the WAAA merged with the men’s AAA to form the Amateur Athletic Association of England in 1991, Marea Hartman was unanimously voted in as its first President, a post she held until her death.

Hartman was awarded an MBE in 1967, a CBE in 1978 and made a Dame of the British Empire in 1994. She was made an honorary Life Member of the IAAF in 1987, and was awarded the Prince Chichibu Award for her impact on women’s sport in Japan in 1993. She was posthumously admitted to the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.