By: J.V. Askem

The first sanctioned All-Women's Powerlifting meet was held in 1975 at Glendale, CA. I know this for a fact because I was the meet director. I was also the So. Pacific AAU Weightlifting Committee Chairman at that time. So I was the one who approved the sanction. However, at that time, because a women's powerlifting program was not an official sport, with an official set of rules, I sanctioned the meet as an exhibition. An official women's program did not materialize until several years later around 1979 or 80. The first Women's World Powerlifting Championships took place in 1980.

NOTE: I wrote the following article in September of 1975, and submitted it plus the results to Bob Hoffman at the York Barbell Co. The piece appeared in the March 1976 issue of Muscular Development magazine.

Many thanks to one of my readers, Gary Brown, for sending me a copy of this article.

(Copied from the March 1976 issue Muscular Development)

Reported by: John V. Askem

114 lb Class                  SQ    BP     DL    Total
Shirley Patterson         115    110    215     450
North Hollywood HC

123 lb Class
Natalie Kahn               160     95     225     480
Fresno Iron Man
Kathy Melcher             140     90     210     440
North Hollywood HC

132 lb Class
Dorreen Tracy              135     85     230    450
North Hollywood HC
Marge Asseltyne           135     75     185    395
North Hollywwod HC
Toni D'Errico               135      75    175    385
Fudpuckers BBC

148 lb Class
Cyndy Groffman           135     95     230    450
Redondo Beach HC
Marie Sibley                 140     65     210    415
North Hollywood HC

Team Award------- North Hollywood Health Club
Outstanding lifter- Shirley Patterson
Referee------------- Bud Mucci, Myers Badura, and Lew Hill
Score Keeper------ Sharon Hill

On September 6, 1975 at Glendale College in California the first AAU sanctioned All Women's Powerlifting Contest took place. Preparations for the contest started six months earlier when a poster was sent out to all clubs and athletes in the South Pacific AAU. The poster had a picture of SPA's women's weightlifting coordinator Shirley Patterson. Its message was to try and encourage any woman interested in powerlifting to enter the All Women's Powerlifting Contest. About 20 women responded to the poster. By the deadline of September 2nd, 10 women had entered. Eight of the 10 women appeared at weigh in time, with one women dropping out with an injury, another because of a job commitment.

The contest was sanctioned as an exhibition because of some deviations from the IPF rules. First, nude weigh-ins were not enforced and second, the one-piece conventional type lifting suits were waived in favor of a more suitable garment for the feminine physique. Frankly, had these two forementioned rules been enforced, there would not have been a contest.

As it turned out there was a contest and it started on time. Our eight entries varied in bodyweight from 112 to 146 pounds. In the 114-pound class, Shirley Patterson won uncontested. Although she wasn't pushed, Shirley still managed to either tie or break all of her personal records and also won the Outstanding Lifter Award.

In the 123's Natalie Kahn, a veteran of over 10 open contests, managed personal records to win over Kathy Melcher. However, I think Natalie would be the first to admit that Kathy, a competitive cyclist from Anaheim, California is a lifter with a lot of potential.

In the 132-pound class, a former Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeer, Dorreen Tracy got nine out of nine attempts to win with a fine 450 total. Dorreen, who has only a few pounds to lose to make the 123's, wants to give Natalie Kahn a run for her money in the next contest, so watch out Natalie. Marge Asseltyne's 395 total was not indicative of her performance. Marge made much more on fourth attempts, as did Toni D'Errico who had only a few weeks of training behind her.

In the 148-pound class, Cyndy Groffman of Redondo Beach, California came on strong to win after a slow start in the squat. I must say that I have never seen a lifter, male or female with the determination that Cyndy Groffman exhibited. It was this determination that got her the highest deadlift of the meet. Marie Sibley who was second, made a strong 140 squat and 210 deadlift, but her low bench press kept her back.

As a point of interest, out of 72 regulation attempts, there were only 10 misses with no bomb-outs and no squats were turned down for lack of depth. So, maybe some of the guys can learn a few lessons from the girls.

Weightlifting activities for women have great potential in this country. A National Women's Sub-Committee is needed with a National Coordinator. Also, some adjustments should be made in the rules, since they were originally written for the male lifter. Any suggestions?


The unsung heroine of Women's Powerlifting and Bodybuilding was Shirley Patterson of North Hollywood, CA. In 1974, when I was serving as the So. Pacific AAU Weightlifting Committee Chairman, I appointed Shirley to head a women's sub committee to help promote women's participation in iron game sports.

At that time such a move was NOT well received by a lot of the old guard from both my local AAU committee as well as the national committee. However, the 1970's was a time when equality for women was starting to be stressed. So there was really no stopping them from competing in weight sports, especially when Shirley got involved!

Now the truth needs to be known, that Shirley Patterson sacificed her amateur athletic career to help get a competitive women's weight program off of the ground. As the manager of a gym, that had a lot of clients who worked in the entertainment industry, Shirley used her connections to get herself on "Johnny Carson's Tonight Show". She then articulately, as well physically, gave a demonstration of powerlifts on coast to coast TV. This exposure, along with the first contest that Shirley helped me organize, gave women's weight sports the legitimacy they deserved. Unfortunately, because of the aforementioned TV appearance, Shirley was railroaded out of the AAU by being declared a professional athlete.