Throwback Thursday: The Early Years of Women’s Basketball

 Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

Not only is it Women’s History Month, but it’s also time for March Madness, so today for Throwback Thursday, we’re killing two birds with one stone. Today, let’s talk about the early years of women’s basketball.

AHS Girl's Basketball

Auburn High School Girls’ Basketball Team

Maybe you knew that James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, but have you heard of Senda Berenson Abbott?

Sometimes referred to as the “mother of women’s basketball,” Berenson Abbott was director of physical education at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Though her teaching often emphasized gymnastics, fencing, and later, field hockey, she is most well-known for devising “women’s basketball” in 1892.

Butler High School Girl's Basketball

Butler High School Girls’ Basketball Team

It was essentially a modified version of Naismith’s game, with more restrictive rules and an emphasis on passing rather than possession. For example, the court was divided into 2-3 “zones,” and players were required to stay within their respective zones during play. They could only dribble the ball three times in a row, and could not hold the ball for more than three seconds at a time.

The game quickly caught on among girl’s schools—and apparently, in other schools across the country, as can be seen in these Northern Indiana basketball photographs. From 1905 to 1917, Senda Berenson Abbott was the official chairman for the Basketball Committee for Women, and her version of the game remained the standard for women’s basketball for 70 years.

Altona Girls' Basketball

Girls’ Basketball Team at Altona

In DeKalb County, there were girl’s basketball teams at least as far back at 1909, showing that the game had become popular even at the high-school level.

Want to see more? Search our online photo database, check out the Genealogy Center’s official Facebook page, or read some of our posts on DeKalb County women: Bonnell Souder, Vesta Swarts, Lida Leasure, and Jane Brooks Hine


About Chelsea

I've been working at Willennar Genealogy Center for over two years now, and I've loved every minute of getting to learn more about the stories of DeKalb County and the surrounding area. I'm interested in all kinds of history, but I'm especially fond of the early film industry, old letters and journals, the DeKalb County Fair, and the Interurban line.
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3 Responses to Throwback Thursday: The Early Years of Women’s Basketball

  1. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Prohibition and the WCTU | Charlie Chat

  2. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Bonnell Souder’s Travels | Charlie Chat

  3. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Ladies’ Literary Society | Charlie Chat

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