When I first began lifting weights in 1962, you never saw any women even go near weights. Lifting weights was strictly a male pursuit in those days, although in some parts of the country, such as in California, some women had dared to start using weights as a method of shaping their bodies. But in the gyms that I attended, women did not dare to even touch a dumbbell. Such unfounded fears were based on the notion that any lifting or resistance exercise would pack on muscle in women, as it did in men. Those that did dare to lift, such as women who habituated the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, California, usually stuck with very light weights. Despite this, some of them added some muscle to their bodies, yet none ever presented a masculine appearance. Indeed, they showed far more curves and femininity compared to women who stuck to aerobics and calisthenics. Movie star Marilyn Monroe was one of those women who ventured into weight training. Monroe explained her exercise regime in a 1952 article published in Life Magazine:
"I never used to bother with exercises,” Monroe told LIFE. “Now I spend at least 10 minutes each morning working out with small weights. I have evolved my own exercises, for the muscles I wish to keep firm, and I know they are right for me because I can feel them putting the proper muscles into play when I exercise. Each morning, after I brush my teeth, wash my face, and shake off the first deep layer of sleep, I lie down on the floor beside my bed and begin my first exercise,” said Monroe. “It is a simple bust-firming routine which consists of lifting five-pound weights from a spread-eagle position to a point directly above my head. Then, with my arms at a 45-degree angle from the floor, I move my weights in circles until I’m tired."
Here's a video showing Monroe practicing some of her fitness moves:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-t3Ymb3BUw
Monroe was typical of women in the 50s who trained with weights. They used very light weights as a means of shaping their bodies. They figured that lifting light weights would not add extensive muscle mass, which women wanted to avoid at all costs. As time went on, weight training for women continued to evolve with more women overcoming their fears of "being turned into men," and embarking on regular weight training. Eventually, some women got into it more than others and thoughts of competition appeared. This led to the early female bodybuilding contests. I recall being asked to judge one of those contests. I was admonished to judge the women solely on the basis of their muscularity, symmetry, and proportions. In short, I was to judge them the same way I would judge a . . .