As just about the entire nation (including our Commander in Chief) get their brackets ready for the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, many will recall the great dynasties of college hoops — UCLA, Duke, North Carolina, Indiana and Kentucky easily come to mind. But as we celebrate Women’s History Month, the Photo Vault looks back at the history of women in the game.
Women’s basketball began the year after the game was invented. The history of women’s basketball success is a long one: collegiate and professional teams, intercollegiate competitions (and their critics) as well as the sad history of many failed attempts at professional leagues; women’s basketball at the Olympics.
1891: James Naismith invented basketball at a Massachusetts YMCA school.
1892: The first women’s basketball team organized by Senda Berenson at Smith College, adapting Naismith’s rules to emphasize cooperation, with three zones and six players on each team
1893: The first women’s college basketball game played at Smith College. No men were admitted to the game. Later that year, women’s basketball began at Iowa State College, Carleton College, Mount Holyoke College and Sophie Newcomb College (Tulane) in New Orleans. Each year more schools added women’s basketball.
1896: Bloomers were introduced as a playing uniform at Sophie Newcomb College.
Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley played the first women’s intercollegiate game. Stanford won, 2-1. Women guarded the windows and doors to keep men from watching.
1899: Stanford banned women’s basketball from intercollegiate competition, as did the University of California.
1908: Amateur Athletic Union took the position that women or girls should not play basketball in public.
1914: The American Olympic Committee declared its opposition to women taking part in Olympic competition.
1920s: Companies throughout the country sponsored teams for their workers — including female leagues.
Industrial leagues — teams sponsored by companies for their workers — were established in many parts of the country.
1922: Jeux Olympiques Féminines held an all-women’s sports competition for sports excluded from the Olympics. Basketball was among the offerings.
1924: Olympics included women’s basketball as an exhibition event.
International Women’s Sports Federation founded, hosted a women’s event paralleling the Olympics, including basketball.
1926: AAU held first national tournament for women’s basketball with six teams participating.
1940s: During World War II, relocation centers for Japanese-Americans included regularly scheduled women’s basketball games.
1953: International competition in women’s basketball was reorganized.
1955: The first Pan-American Games included women’s basketball; USA won the gold medal.
1972: Title IX enacted, requiring federally-funded schools to fund women’s sports equitably, including teams, scholarships, recruitment, and media coverage.
1973: College scholarships offered to female athletes for the first time.
1976: Women’s basketball became an Olympic sport. The Soviet team won the gold; USA won the silver.
1980: Ladies Professional Basketball Association founded with six teams; played for less than a month before failing.
1986: National Women’s Basketball Association founded; folded the same season.
1993: Women’s Basketball Association founded; failed two years later.
1996: NBA established the WNBA with eight teams; Sheryl Swoopes was the first player signed by the WNBA.
1999: Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame opened with 25 inductees.
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