Roller Derby started as an answer to the overly abundant amount of down time during the Great Depression. With so many people out of work, Chicago promoter Leo Seltzer decided to distract the local populous with what he originally dubbed, “Transcontinental Roller Derby”. It was a mythical marathon race that pitted men and women against each other wearing roller skates on a banked track simulating a race that spans from one end of the country to the other. Over the next 70 years and a dip into the professional wrestling-esque realm, Roller Derby has reemerged with a new face. No longer being regarded as a “side show,” Roller Derby is quickly becoming a mainstay in the world of women’s sports. Along with the sport being on the rise, the sub culture of derby fans is growing not only in numbers, but in walks of life as well. And like with that of any new community, their story must be told. Using the art of keen observation, interviewing, research, analysis and pure imagination, I will outline the Roller Derby community through in depth and in your face exploration. I’m centering my focus on the Windy City Rollers. The team was started by a couple of ambitious athletes named Juana Rumble and Sister Sledgehammer. Gaining inspiration from an Austin Roller Derby team, Juana and Sledge’s derby movement started in Chicago, the birthplace of Roller Derby, back in 2005 and it has grown in leaps and bounds since. It has help spawn Roller Derby leagues all over the U.S. and abroad including the team I popped my Derby Cherry on: Fayetteville, North Carolina’s own Rogue Rollergirls. As a referee and volunteer for Rogue, I was able to gain a foothold on a community worth living in. I moved on to volunteer for the Windy City Rollers finding a new home with a new derby family in Chicago. And though my affiliation with Roller Derby has only seen a few years, I want to tell the whole story. I will identify the beginnings of Roller Derby and travel through the community continuing up to the present. Along the way I will discuss the make up of a derby girl, the fan base, spirituality and rituals, the sites and space of the derby community, and finally where I see the community going and its impact on the world around it. From starting as a distraction to becoming a rapidly growing sporting event, the Roller Derby community is a wave gaining momentum, readying to crash on the shores of the world. I hope you are wearing your slicker!
Roller Derby Research Teaser