Here in Penobscot County, Maine, where the Brewer Witches of
both genders clash vigorously with rival Bangor Rams and it's hard to
imagine a year the UMaine women Black Bears don't seriously outperform
their male hoopster counterparts, it seems like women have played
basketball forever or at least as long as the sport has been around.
Of course we know that's very much not true. The sport was designed
for men in 1891. Conventional wisdom back then saw it as too
strenuous for women.
Fortunately women didn't take this sitting down. In 1896 there
was the first women's intercollegiate basketball game played between
Stanford and Berkeley. Sue Macy's Basketball Belles: How Two Teams
and One Scrappy Player Put Women's Hoops on the Map is the story of
this historic event.
The narrator has been sent to Stanford University to become more
ladylike. (Back in those days that probably also meant more
marriageable.) Her opening paragraph shows why a traditional 19th
century mother might have cause for concern.
"Nobody can ever accuse me of being a girly-girl. Sure, I can
sashay around in a ruffled skirt if I have to. But I'm more
comfortable in breeches and spurs. My name is Agnes Morley. I grew up
working on my family's ranch in New Mexico. Getting dirty came with
The audience for this first game consisted of over five hundred
women. (The only men in the building are the janitor and his
assistant who, when called on to fix a basket, saw who is playing and
were properly horrified). The Berkeley team had questioned the
propriety of men seeing women perspire.
Neither the players nor the fans (whose cheering Morley compares
to a cattle stampede) are at all "ladylike". Matt Collins'
wonderfully detailed illustrations show the intensity of the
competition and the determination of the players. Other than
differences in uniforms and hair style they could have been painted
from this year's Bangor Daily News--particularly my two favorites. In
one one of Morley's team mates, about to make a shot, is a study in
concentration. A two page spread shows the unbridled joy of the
Basketball Belles is a fun must read for sports fans and
feminists. I think I'll try to track down
On a personal note, I have never been all that fond of watching
sports. But gender equity is a big concern of mine. When I started
Gordon College in 1979 I quickly saw that, in relation to men's
athletics, women's sports were very much neglected. How could I
remedy that? My first work study job was in the cafeteria where I
made a wonderful discovery--a locked closet containing an unused
public address system. I tracked down the keys Nancy Drew style and
startled the diners by making an enthusiastic publicity message on
behalf of our women's teams. It was the first of many. I also went
to their games. Before the first trimester was over I would hear
chants of "Win one for the Big E" (my middle name being Emily).
A great big shout out goes out to pioneering girls and women in sports
and STEM and all other arenas of human endeavor.
Sent from my iPod