A Brief Herstory of Women's Basketball


We've come a long way since Babe!

"Babe Didrikson", that is. She was the first famous woman player back in the 1920's and she led her team, The Golden Cyclones, to the 1931 AAU Championship. There was no professional league for men or women at that time. The AAU still continues their national championship they started in 1929.

Of course women started playing Naismith's game way before the 1920's. We've been players since the first few months of basketball's invention. In 1892, the first women's basketball team was organized at Smith College by Senda Berenson. It would be four more years until the first intercollegiate game was played, however. The competitors were Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley. Stanford won 2-1. No, that's not a soccer score- the rules were a lot different! They played a six-player, three court game with stationary guards and forwards. In the 1950's and '60's they played a "roving" game, with two stationary guards, two stationary forwards and two "rovers". It wasn't until 1970 that we adopted the five player full court game.

Women's basketball continued to grow in popularity, especially at the collegiate level since that Stanford-Berkeley contest. In the 1950's and '60's women's basketball even had their own version of Michael Jordan: Nera White. It was routine for her to sink 'em from center court and go coast to coast in three dribbles.  Air Nera could also tip the ball in from ten feet out and fly from the free throw line for a lay up. Can you imagine the shoe deal she'd get now?

Perhaps the most important thing to happen for women's basketball, as well as all women's sports, was the enactment of Title IX in 1972. It requires that all schools that get money from Uncle Sam be fair to females in the allocation of funds for teams, recruitment, scholarships and media coverage. For example, if your high school has a boy's basketball team, they sure as heckfire better have a girl's team!!

In the years since then, we have been in the Olympics (since 1976), on national TV, and finally have a pro league of our own! So if you've got your game on in the new Millenium, pay a little homage to those who have gone before.  Write "Nera White" on the bottom of your shoes, embroider "Babe" on your sportsbra or get a full color tattoo of "Title IX"!!


Source: At the Rim, a Celebration of  Women's Collegiate Basketball. Introduction by Patsy Neal. Publisher, Professional Photography Division, Eastman Kodak Company and Thomasson-Grant, 1991.

Here are two interesting links about women's basketball greats:



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This page was last updated on 02/26/00.