Florence Birchenough 1894-1973

Athlete, founder of the WAAA

Florence Birchenough was the first British woman athlete to gain international success in throwing events, competing at shot, discus, and javelin. Like Mary Lines, she was a member of the first unofficial England the team, picked from the PE classes of Regents Street Polytechnic, to compete at the First Monte Carlo Games in 1921.

Back in England, driven by the lack of a formal governing body for women’s athletics and the disinterest of the AAA in allowing women to become involved Florence was a founder member of the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association which formed in 1922.

As an athlete she competed at the first WAAA Championship, held at the Oxo Ground, London in 1923 wining shot put with distance of 16.16 yards. Between 1924 and 1928 she held the British record for all three available throwing events. Internationally, she won sliver in the javelin at the 1922 Women’s World Games and bronze in discus at the 1924 Women’s World games, and in 1926 captained the team at the third Women’s World Games in Gothenburg, Sweden.

After getting married, becoming Mrs. Millichap and becoming a mother she continued to be involved in competition, one of many women athletes to disprove the ‘medical’ fears that athletics would leave women unable to bear children, and continued to be involved with women’s athletics throughout her life as a coach and official.