Smith College Athletes to Revisit Basketball's
Re-Enactment of the First Collegiate Women's Game
Editor's note: For a high-res digital photo
of early basketball games at Smith, contact Marti Hobbes at email@example.com
or (413) 585-2190.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- In the 111 years since the first game of collegiate
basketball ever played by women took place at Smith College, the game
has undergone a few important changes.
For one, players have since traded in their bloomers and long-sleeved
blouses for athletic uniforms better suited to the exertion of today's
games. Women are allowed to steal the ball from their opponents these
days, a practice ruled illegal in 1893 because it was unladylike. And
men, who were not allowed to view those early players in their risqué game
attire, are encouraged to attend today's games as spectators.
But on Sunday, Feb. 1, all that basketball progress will be temporarily
rescinded when students at Smith College re-enact the first official
women's basketball game at 12:15 p.m. in Ainsworth Gymnasium. This time,
men and women alike will be encouraged to attend. The event is free and
open to the public.
The re-enactment will feature the bloomered uniforms, staid rules and
a replay of the events of the first official women's basketball game,
which took place on March 22, 1893, in what is now known as the Alumnae
Gymnasium. Smith intercollegiate athletes, including nine members of
the basketball team, will play the parts of their predecessors. A hip-hop
dance team will also perform.
The event is part of a year-long celebration of Northampton's 350th
anniversary in conjunction with National Girls and Women in Sports Day
and is the kickoff event for Fitness February, a month-long series of
college events leading up to the official opening on Feb. 20 of Smith's
Olin Fitness Center, a 4,800-square-foot facility next to Ainsworth Gym.
Construction of the $4-million fitness center was made possible by a
gift from the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Foundation in honor of Barbara
Olin Taylor, a 1954 Smith graduate, and Judy Olin Higgins, a 1958 Smith
Basketball was introduced to Smith women in 1892 by Senda Berenson,
a physical education teacher at the college, who, only a year after Dr.
James Naismith invented the game, adapted the rules for a women's game.
The first women's basketball game -- a decidedly less frenetic affair
in comparison to today's college games -- took place between the Smith
classes of 1895 and 1896. The rules allowed one bounce of the ball before
passing and required players to remain in one of three assigned zones
to minimize excessive running. Despite those limitations, one player
in that game managed to dislocate her shoulder. The freshman class edged
their sophomore competitors 5 to 4.
Smith women will re-enact that event -- down to the shoulder injury
and exact score -- using a script written from materials in the College
Archives and uniforms made for a similar re-enactment in 1993.
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost liberal
arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state and 60 other
countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's college in the
Office of College
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063
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