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Women's History Month: Root River Rollers empower women to find inner strength

"We are a strong group of women and women-identifying skaters"
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Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 21, 2023

RACINE, Wis. — Inside the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 838's hanger in Racine, you can expect to find planes and aircraft memorabilia, but what's unexpected? The location is where a group of women, of all ages, shapes, and sizes, lace up their skates and strap on their gear for an intense practice of roller derby.

Nicole Miller, also known as Hella De Vil, is the president of the Root River Rollers. She joined about five years ago as a way to do something fun after having her daughter.

"We are a strong group of women and women-identifying skaters," said Miller.

And for "Poison Ivy", she joined looking for a competitive outlet.

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The Root River Rollers.

"We don't get to do a lot for ourselves as women or something for everyone else remains, whether daughters or sisters or employees. This is something that we all get to do for ourselves, which is really fulfilling," she explains.

The team was founded back in 2012, but women have been playing roller derby since the 1930s. Dr. Michelle Marino wrote the book 'Roller Derby: The History of an American Sport.' It focuses on how the sport has evolved over time and how it's always had a theme centered around women's empowerment.

"That's why I found roller derby so fascinating, is because it had been coed decades before other sports really were coed. It never made compromises or amends for women playing Roller Derby. They were treated equally throughout the sport, and, in fact, women were always among the top stars and the top skaters," said Dr. Marino.

Dr. Marino said in recent years there has been a resurgence of popularity surrounding the sport, with hundreds of leagues popping up across the country.

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The Root River Rollers.

"Women love it. I mean we don't still, even in the 21st century, have a lot of opportunity to play full-contact sports, and within, in a roller derby as a sport right now is by and large female-led, so it's very much about empowerment, about feminism, and maybe not, as we think of traditional feminism, but very much about empowering women to play the sport, and people who identify as women as well," Marino said.

For the Root River Rollers, the team has come a long way since the early days of the pandemic. What started as a small group of members has now grown to a thriving community of 40 active participants. Each member's uniqueness and individuality is celebrated by the team.

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"We are really welcoming. We are each other's biggest cheerleaders," said Poison Ivy.

As the women push themselves to the limit, gliding and weaving to prevent their opponents from scoring any points, each person here has gained something more than just a new skill.

"I've learned resilience, persistence, patience. I thought I learned patience as a mom, but I've learned a lot of patience here just with myself."

Through the hard hits and falls, they have each discovered their strength and gained a supportive community along the way.

"We really do love each other and support each other. That's what I want everyone to feel."

The Root River Roller's next home game is April 15 at Racine Memorial Hall. To learn more about the team, click here.

To purchase 'Roller Derby: The History of an American Sport', click here.


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