© 2021 University of Missouri - KBIA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News

Show Me The State: The Fulton Flash

Helen Stephens starts high school in Fulton in 1931. She’s a gangly, gravelly-voiced farm girl dressed in homemade clothes. Her classmates tease her with the unfortunate moniker “Popeye.” Helen takes it in stride with humor, attempting to own her identity - a feat for any teenager.

One opportune day, the high school boys athletic coach asks her to run a 50-yard dash. He clocks her at a world record time. So begins the rise of one of Missouri’s most accomplished athletes. 

Helen’s racing career begins in St. Louis against rival Stella Walsh and eventually lands her in a lane for the largest athletic event in the world: the Olympics. Her ascension to stardom and subsequent departure from the spotlight is rife with challenges, setbacks and cruelty under the public eye. 

Remember: It’s the 1930s. And for Helen, a world record or a gold medal can’t get some people to look past her private life or even the fact that she is just a teenage girl.

Related Content