With the excitement of the current Olympics, and all the inspiring USA and worldwide competitors, it’s hard to escape thoughts of sport this week. As barriers are broken: record-breaking times, ages–old or young, and the addition of new sports for women (boxing for the first time this year)–we seem to have long- forgotten the earliest breaking of barriers, allowing women to compete in the same sports as men. When ‘modern’ era Olympics started in Athens in 1896, women were not allowed to compete. And even when, in 1900 Paris, they were permitted, individuals competed only in tennis, golf, croquet. We’ve come a long way since then–and surprisingly, only this year does every competing country have at least one woman representing their country.
Indianapolis is known for love of sports, if nothing else, and so its not so surprising to find a robust representation of females in the athletic division of high schools through the early parts of the 20th century.
Though women played hockey as early as the 1880’s, it’s still impressive that high school girls of Indianapolis were playing hockey at Shortridge High School in 1932–among a few other sports. As a couple comments have noted, it was field, not ice hockey being played, but it was called merely “hockey” and in many countries, continues to be called hockey without “field” in front of it.
“Hockey follows the fall tennis tournament. Intra-mural games are played, and at the end of the season, a varsity team is chosen. The varsity played one outside game and lost to Washington, 1-to-0.”
“Basketball is the favorite Hoosier sport and can be called Shortridge’s most popular game also, if the number of the girls who come out for the sport is any proof. As soon as teams have been organized and intra-mural games have begun, girls who with to try out for the varsity may do so. This year, the varsity record was unusually fine, with seven games won, and ony three games lost. Miss Thelma Armfield was the coach of the team.”
“This year there were many feminine ‘babe’ Ruths discovered in the girls’ gym classes. At the beginning of the season several teams were organized and captains were chosen for each team. Intra-mural games were played under all the atmosphere of a ‘Big League’ game except the slinging of pop bottles at the umpire, and the shouts of ‘Down in front’ and ‘The umpire is blind,’ All games were played in the girls’ gym. A varsity was chosen from the advanced girls. No ‘world’s series’ was held.
Volley ball begins at the close of the baseball season. The freshmen and advanced girls play together in these sports. A varsity team is chosen from both at the end of the playing season. this year unusual interest was taken in volley ball, as compared with the interest of previous years.
AND also from 1932 Shortridge: “A girls’ athletic club was organized this year. It is called the Philateron Club, meaning friendship, sportsmanship, and character. The members are those who have 500 points or over, and the pledges are those having 250 points. Charlotte Sputh, Jeanne Spiegel, and Lois LeSaulnier are charter members.”
I know my grandmother played basketball for her high school in the 1930’s, but don’t personally know any women who played earlier than that. What say you, Ladies Loungers? Who’s the earliest female athlete yo have met or know of and what did she play?
Valuing = Supporting
Publishing HI every day is more than just a ’labor of love‘ (though we do love it), but takes hundreds of hours each month to create. If you are entertained, inspired, better informed, feel more connected with Indy or just value what you discover here, please consider becoming a supporting member with a recurring monthly donation.
Or, become a one-time supporter with a single donation in any amount you choose.
More old-fashioned? Checks or money orders may be sent to:
Historicindianapolis.com at P.O. Box 2999, Indianapolis, IN 46206
Thank you and HI-5! Love, The HI Team