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History of Women's Basketball in America

A Timeline of Women's Basketball History 1891 to Present

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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. It's all here in this timeline. See also: Top Women in Basketball History

1891

  • James Naismith invented basket ball [sic] at a Massachusetts YMCA school
1892
  • 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
  • first women's college basketball game played at Smith College; no men were admitted to the game (March 21)
  • 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 to their sports offerings for girls
1894
  • Senda Berenson published article on women's basketball and its benefits in the Physical Education journal
1895 1896
  • Bloomers introduced as a playing costume at Sophie Newbomb College, New Orleans
  • Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley played the first women's intercollegiate game; Stanford won, 2-1, and men were excluded, with women guarding the windows and doors to exclude men
  • first known women's basketball game between two high schools was played in the Chicago area, with Chicago Austin High School against Oak Park High School
1899
  • Conference of Physical Training established a committee to form uniform rules for women's basket ball [sic]
  • Stanford banned women's basketball from intercollegiate competition, as did the University of California
1901
  • University of California at Berkeley was given an outdoor basketball court for women by philanthropist Phoebe Hearst
  • Spalding issued women's basketball rules, edited by Senda Berenson, establishing 3 zones with 5-10 players per team; some teams used men's rules, some used Baer's rules, and some used Spalding's/Berenson's rules
1904
  • A Native American team played women's basketball at the St. Louis World's Fair, as an exhibition
1908
  • AAU (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 the participation of women in the Olympics competition
1920s
  • industrial leagues -- teams sponsored by companies for their workers -- were established in many parts of the country
1921
  • Jeux Olympiques Féminines held in Monaco, an all-women's sports competition for sports excluded from the Olympics; sports included basketball, track and field; Britain's team won the basketball event
1922
  • Jeux Olympiques Féminines held, an all-women's sports competition for sports excluded from the Olympics; sports included basketball, track and field
1923
  • Jeux Olympiques Féminines held, an all-women's sports competition for sports excluded from the Olympics; sports included basketball, track and field
  • Women's Division of the National Amateur Athletic Federation (WDNAAF) held its first conference; over the next few years, it will take on women's extramural basketball and other sports as too competitive, working to get high schools, industrial leagues, and even churches to ban tournaments
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
1927
  • AAU National Women's Basketball Tournament cancelled under pressure from the WDNAAF; Sunoco Oilers (Dallas) declared AAU national champions
1928
  • Olympics included women's basketball -- as an exhibition event
  • AAU National Women's Basketball Tournament cancelled for the second year under pressure from the WDNAAF; Sunoco Oilers (Dallas) declared AAU national champions (again)
1929
  • AAU selected the first AAU All-America team
  • AAU re-started national championship tournament; Sunoco Oilers won, defeating the Golden Cyclones; a beauty contest was part of the event
1930
  • AAU national chapionship included 28 teams; Sunoco Oilers won, defeating the Golden Cyclones
1930s
  • Isadore Channels (of the Chicago Romas team) and Ora Mae Washington (of the Philadelphia Tribunes) were stars in two rival black women's basketball barnstorming teams; both women were also American Tennis Association title winners
  • WDNAAF continued to pressure states to ban women's basketball tournaments, with success in many states
1931 1938
  • three zones reduced to two in women's competition
1940s
  • during World War II, competition and recreation basketball was common; relocation canters for Japanese Americans, for instance, included regularly scheduled women's basketball games
1953
  • international competition in women's basketball was reorganized
1955
  • first Pan-American Games included women's basketball; USA won the gold medal
1969
  • Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (ICAW) held an invitational basketball tournament, the first national tournament not including AAU teams; West Chester State won the championship
  • women's basketball was included in the Paralympics

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