Almost every circumstance was stacked against Wilma Rudolph from the day she was born on June 23, 1940. Her father, Ed Rudolph, had eleven children by a first marriage while his second marriage yielded eight more, of which Wilma was the fifth. At birth she weighed only four-and-a-half pounds. Her mother, Blanche, a housemaid, feared for Wilma’s survival from the outset. The family lived in tiny St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, a farming community about forty-five miles southeast of Nashville, Tennessee. Shortly after Wilma was born, the Rudolphs moved to nearby Clarksville, Tennessee, where they lived in town. Her father worked as a porter on railroad cars, and her mother cleaned houses six days a week. Older siblings helped care for the sickly baby who had come into the world prematurely.
Source: Notable Biographies