Bodybuilders Through the Ages

Over the past 150 years, bodybuilders have gone from circus sideshows to celebrities, imparting fitness lessons along the way

Jack LaLanne (1914 - 2011) (Bettmann / Corbis)

Abbye Stockton

Abbey Stockton
(Maura McCarthy)

Introduced to weightlifting by her husband, Stockton became a regular at California’s Muscle Beach. This 5-foot-1, 115-pound bodybuilder later opened the Salon of Figure Development—a women’s-only gym—and wrote the column “Barbelles” for Strength and Health magazine in which she encouraged women to lift weights for the sake of figure contouring and athletic prowess. Although generations of strongwomen preceded her, Abbye Stockton took the image of muscular women out of the sideshow and into the local gym.

About Jesse Rhodes

Jesse Rhodes is a former Smithsonian magazine staffer. Jesse was a contributor to the Library of Congress World War II Companion.

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