BACKGROUND: Reduction in muscle strength is strongly associated with functional decline in women, and women with lower quadriceps strength adjusted for body weight are more likely to develop knee osteoarthritis. OBJECTIVE: To compare body weight--adjusted strength among women of different age/racial groups. STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional study of muscle strength in 918 women aged 20--83 (M ± SD = 52 ± 13). METHODS: An orthopedic examination was conducted including measurement of handgrip and lower extremity strength (hip abductors/external rotators, knee flexors/extensors). Data were grouped into young (20--39 years, n = 139), middle (40--54 years, n = 300), and older (55+ years, n = 424) ages for white (n = 699) and African American (AA) (n = 164) women. Means and standard deviations for strength adjusted for body weight were calculated for each age and racial group and compared using 2-way multivariate analysis of variance and post hoc tests. RESULTS: No significant age-by-race interaction (P = .092) but significant main effects for age and race (P < .001). Pairwise comparisons revealed significant differences in knee extensor and flexor strength between all age groups. For grip and hip external rotator strength, significant differences were found between the middle and older groups. Differences in hip abductor strength were found between the young and middle-aged groups. AA women had lower strength than white women in all muscle groups (P < .05) except hip external rotators. CONCLUSIONS: Strength decreased with age in all muscle groups but magnitude of decrease varied by muscle. Strengthening programs should target different muscles, depending on a woman's age and race.