Doris Barrilleox Collection
A Finding Aid to the Collection at the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports
Born in Houston, Texas, in 1931, Doris Barrilleaux is a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, and is known in the bodybuilding community as the “First Lady of Bodybuilding.” In childhood she was inspired by the Tarzan movies, and as a young adult, she was interested in physical activities and sports.
She started weight training in 1955 after giving birth to her fourth child and realizing that, while still thin, she had lost all of her physical strength. She began by reading men’s bodybuilding magazines and doing the workouts shown there with 10 to15 pound weights. Barrilleaux sent a picture of herself in a double-bicep pose, emulating the poses she saw in the men’s magazines to Vera Christenson, a writer for Strength and Health magazine. Christenson responded by requesting a photograph of a more feminine pose. Doris sent one in, and the photograph was published in Strength and Health magazine in 1963.
In 1977, she was encouraged to compete in The First National Physique Competition, a female bodybuilding competition, in Ohio. It was at this point that she began to realize that there were different rules for men and women competitors. For instance, women had to wear pants when having their upper bodies judged and shirts when having their lower bodies judged. Barrilleaux continued her involvement with competitive bodybuilding, including being invited to guest pose at a men’s competition in Tampa, Florida in 1978. It was at this men’s competition that she and Suzanne Kosak, a fellow woman bodybuilder, came up with the idea to create a competition for women that was judged more like the men’s competitions. She also started to photograph bodybuilders because she enjoyed photography, and it allowed her to be more involved in the bodybuilding world.
In 1978, she, along with Suzanne Kosak and Linda Gleason, formed Superior Physique Association, Inc. (SPA). In 1979, they put on the Ms. Brandon Physique competition in Brandon, Florida, with 13 contestants including Doris Barrilleaux. This competition marked the beginning of a change in women’s bodybuilding, particularly in rules. New rules included having a mostly female judging panel, as opposed to a mostly (or all) male panel model that formerly been the convention. Ms. Brandon Physique became the first of many modern women’s bodybuilding competitions, including the first International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB) Women’s World Pro Bodybuilding Competition held in Los Angeles.
Superior Physique Association (SPA) was featured on the 1979 TV show, Real People, which highlighted female bodybuilders who wanted to be recognized for body sculpting and to educate non-bodybuilders about the benefits gained from weight training. Both women and men began to show more interest in SPA after the broadcast of the show. In 1979, Barrilleaux co-authored Inside Weight Training for Women, and SPA grew to have representatives in all but two states, as well as many representatives in Europe.
During her career, Doris actively promoted the sport of bodybuilding. She contacted the press, did interviews, did photo shoots, continued photographing bodybuilders, and wrote articles for a number of publications, such as Iron Man, Muscle Training Illustrated, Strength and Health, Muscle Development, and Shape and Flex.
In 1978, she became the women’s editor of Muscle Training Illustrated and was given a regular column, “Curves and Peaks.” She continued to photograph and report on competitions all over the world for publications like MuscleMag International. She can claim over 200 magazine covers to her name.
In 1980, Doris was elected Chairwoman of the International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB). Within the IFBB, she formed the American Federation of Women’s Bodybuilding (AFWB), which absorbed the SPA organization. She judged many competitions for the IFBB and the AFWB, including being the head judge for the Ms. Olympia competition in 1981. In 1983, she completed her book Forever Fit.
During her time with IFBB, she continued to work on standards, rules, and regulations for judging women’s bodybuilding. The SPA initiated the “Couples” competition, which was quickly renamed “Mixed Pairs” to indicate male and female bodybuilders posing together with unique and artistic routines. However, by 1984, this part of competitive bodybuilding was no longer performed in competitions.
Doris maintained a strong and clear vision of the future of women’s bodybuilding. She believed that there should be two classes, one for the more muscular women, and one for the less muscular women, and emphasized the feminine side and art form of the sport. This vision eventually led Doris to leave the IFBB due to disagreements about the direction of women’s bodybuilding as a sport. She wanted women to be able to control their sport instead of men. Anabolic steroids were beginning to become a point of controversy, and she wrote many articles taking a stand against them. She continued to photograph both men’s and women’s competitions until 2004.
In 2011, she was inducted into the National Fitness Hall of Fame and completed her multi-media DVD, And I Did!, which is an autobiography containing 46 hours of material. The DVD covers her personal life, her family, her bodybuilding photography and participation, and her competition judging. The autobiography also discusses her leadership roles and how she campaigned to change women’s bodybuilding.
Doris Barrilleaux Papers: 12 Boxes: 85 Folders: 838 photographs, 408 audio tapes, 15 beta tapes, 7 DVDs, 16 books, 13 programs, 1 set of playing cards, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and publications, 1970s - 2000s and undated (1,298 items plus clippings and correspondences)
The collection documents Doris Barrilleaux’s bodybuilding career and her involvement in the development of the sport. Her work as a bodybuilding photographer is represented as well as her work as the founder of the American Federation of Women’s Bodybuilding (AFWB). The collection contains a myriad of items including 408 audiotapes, 22 videos in various formats, 838 photos taken by Doris for competitions and posing, 13 programs from various bodybuilding competitions and events, personal and professional correspondences, articles written both by and about Doris, and newspaper clippings. Some of the prominent topics include judging criteria, posing, steroid use, women in bodybuilding, benefits of bodybuilding, bodybuilding organizations, and bodybuilding photography. Included in the collection are Doris’s personal interviews with some of the founders of the sport, such as Don Peterson, Georgia Miller Fudge, Cheryl Jones, Frank Zane, and Tony Cusak, and photographs emphasizing the changing view of the sport. There are articles from magazines and newspapers, not just about Doris but also about bodybuilding in general. The material dates from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s with a majority of items being from the early 1980s.
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The Doris Barrilleaux Papers, H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, The University of Texas at Austin. [There is no space between H. and J.]
Collection processed in 2013 by Megan Fischer, Shanda Ransom, and Brittany Stratton under the supervision of Brent Sipes. To contact The Stark Center about the content of the collection, please phone (512) 471-4890, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit
Detailed Description of the Collection