Since 1935, roller derby has thrilled fans and skaters with its constant action, hard hits, and edgy attitude. However, though its participants’ athleticism is undeniable, roller derby has never been accepted as a “real” sport. Michella M. Marino, herself a former skater, tackles the history of a sport that has long been a cultural mainstay for one reason both utterly simple and infinitely complex: roller derby has always been coed.
Richly illustrated and drawing on oral histories, archival materials, media coverage, and personal experiences, Roller Derby is the first comprehensive history of this cultural phenomenon, one enjoyed by millions yet spurned by mainstream gatekeepers. Amid the social constraints of the mid-twentieth century, roller derby’s emphasis on gender equality attracted male and female athletes alike, producing gender relations and gender politics unlike those of traditional sex-segregated sports. In an enlightening feminist critique, Marino considers how the promotion of pregnancy and motherhood by roller derby management has simultaneously challenged and conformed to social norms. Finally, Marino assesses the sport’s present and future after its resurgence in the 2000s.
About the Author
Michella M. Marino is the deputy director of the Indiana Historical Bureau, a division of the Indiana State Library..
Roller Derby is the rockin’ blend of engaging scholarly research and feminist might...[Marino's] prose is so effortless and engaging because she’s tuned into the nuances of the game that only an insider would know...Her personal experience as an athlete adds texture and passion to her writing—it’s easy to be inspired by how much she cares about capturing a sport that began as the only full-contact co-ed sport in America...Marino’s Roller Derby is a triumphant take on a slice of Americana that makes for an exhilarating read. — Sightlines
Starting in 1935, the sport of roller derby has excited fans with its mix of fast action and edgy attitude. Roller Derby tells the sport’s complex history through rich illustrations, archival materials, and personal experiences. — Alcalde
Fun and full of life, Marino’s Roller Derby will appeal to scholars interested in American sport, gender, and spectacle, but also to the broad audience of skaters and sports fans. — New Books in Sports
Roller Derby is an exceptional work that not only illuminates the history of a sport that remains on the margins of sport history but also offers a feminist examination that transcends Roller Derby itself. Marino’s use of oral histories brings insights otherwise unavailable. Her narrative of Roller Derby, alongside shrewd analysis of the world of sport makes this book an excellent read. This text should be of interest to anyone who is drawn to histories of popular culture, sport as Americana, and women’s sport history. — Journal of Sport History
Marino’s first book is a great contribution to the field of American sports history, and could be a valuable addition to any gender and sport syllabus. Her writing is lively, bringing to life a cast of colourful individuals whose contributions to American culture had been long forgotten. — Sport in History