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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.

$25.95 $19.46

What people are saying…

“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.”
The Atlantic

A Sunday Times Best Sport Book of the Year!

“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.”
Ms. Magazine

“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

“Abramsky has lifted Dod out of obscurity with a refreshing narrative that is both descriptive and informative.”
Sport in American History

“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 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

Included in CLMP’s Reading List to Celebrate the Centennial of the 19th Amendment

“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 documents in this engrossing page turner the inspiring life of forgotten sports phenomenon Lottie Dod (1871–1960), who blazed a trail for women sports superstars today . . . This astute history is a must read for sports fans and women’s studies’ students.”
Publishers Weekly

“A book that brings well deserved attention to Dod . . . Abramsky has done a masterly job researching Dod’s story and calling attention to the achievements of this pioneer who should be recognized by all interested in sports.”
Library Journal

“In this comprehensive and highly detailed account of Dod’s life, freelance journalist Abramsky chronicles her interests and winnings in each of the sports to which she devoted her attention . . . Even though Dod was a phenom in her day, she was largely forgotten without TV, movies, or social media to carry her name forward. Fortunately for sports fans and students of women’s studies, Dod won’t be overlooked thanks to Abramsky’s thorough biography. The author’s historical portrait helps readers appreciate Dod’s amazing feats long before Title IX was ever conceived. A welcome resurrection of a true pioneer.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Lottie Dod is one of the world’s great unsung sporting heroes. There wasn’t a glass ceiling she didn’t succeed in breaking, and in Little Wonder, Sasha Abramsky takes readers on an amazing journey across continents and decades as she shattered records and destroyed stereotypes along the way.”
—Billie Jean King

“It’s so important to remember the past champions, especially the women who tend to be forgotten in the history books.”
—Martina Navratilova

“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


The latest from Akashic’s Edge of Sports imprint, curated by Dave Zirin.

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.

Read a feature on 2020 Sports Books, highlighting Little Wonder, at Publishers Weekly.

Listen to interviews with Sasha Abramsky at New Books in HistoryConstant Wonder, the Weird History podcast, the Tennis Abstract Podcast, and the Without Books podcast.

Watch an interview with Sasha Abramsky at Progressive Movement Coverage (act.tv).

Book Details

  • Hardcover: 280 pages
  • Published: 8/4/20
  • IBSN: 9781617758195
  • e-IBSN: 9781617758263


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.

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