Women's sports in the United States

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Women's sports in the United States have a long history.


1780 - Three days of horse racing at the track in Hempstead Plains, Long Island, included an event for women riders.[1]


1864 - The Park Place Croquet Club of Brooklyn organized with 25 members. Croquet is probably the first game played by both women and men in America.[1]

1866 - Vassar College fielded the first two women's amateur baseball teams.[1]

1874 - Mary Ewing Outerbridge of Staten Island introduced tennis to the United States. She purchased tennis equipment in Bermuda (and had trouble getting it through Customs) and used it to set up the first US tennis court at the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club that spring.[1]

1875 - The "Blondes" and "Brunettes" played their first match In Springfield, Illinois on Sept. 11. Newspapers heralded the event as the "first game of baseball ever played in public for gate money between feminine ball-tossers." [1]

1875 - Wellesley College opened with a gymnasium for exercising and a lake for ice skating and the first rowing program for women.[1]

1876 - Nell Saunders defeated Rose Harland in the first United States women's boxing match, receiving a silver butter dish as her prize.[1]

1882 - At the YWCA in Boston, the first athletic games for women were held.[1]

1887 - Ellen Hansell was crowned the first Women's Singles tennis champion at the US Open.[1]

1889 - The first women's six-day bicycle race ended at Madison Square Garden in New York City.[1]

1894 - The first ladies golf tournament was held on the 7-hole Morristown, NJ course on Oct 17 – 1894. Miss Hollard A. Ford won with a 97 scored on the double-7, 14 strokes under her nearest rival.[1]

1895 - The first Women's Amateur Golf championship was contested among 13 golfers at the Meadow Brook Club, Hempstead, N.Y., on Nov. 9. The match was won by Mrs. Charles S. Brown with a 132 and the runner-up is Nellie Sargent.[1]

1895 - The first organized athletics meeting was generally recognized as the "Field Day" at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, on Nov. 9. A group of "nimble, supple and vivacious girls" engaged in running and jumping events despite bad weather.[1]

1895 - The first women's softball team was formed at Chicago's West Division High School. They did not have a coach for competitive play until 1899.[1]

1896 - The first 6-day bicycle race for women started on Jan 6 at Madison Square Garden in NYC.[1]

1896 - The first women's intercollegiate basketball championship was played between Stanford and the University of California at Berkely. Stanford won 2-1 on April 4 before a crowd of 700 women.[1]

1898 - Lizzie Arlington became the first woman to sign a professional baseball contract, appearing in her first professional game pitching for the Philadelphia Reserves.[1]

1899 - Setting a new women's cycling endurance record, 125 pound Jane Yatman rode 700 miles in 81 hours, 5 mintes on Long Island. During the 3 and one half day trial, she rests less than 2 hours. Her record was beaten on Oct. 19 by Jane Lindsay who rode 900 mikes in 91 hours, 48 minutes.[1]



1900 - The Olympics first allowed women. Margaret Abbott won a gold medal in golf; she was the first American woman to take first place in an Olympic event.[2]

1901- Constance M.K, at Harvard University, introduced field hockey to the women of the United States.[3]


1911 - Helene Britton was the first woman to own a major league team. She was the head director of the St. Louis Cardinals from 1911 to 1917.[4]

1914 - Women's basketball rules changed to allow half-court play.[5]


1920 - The first American women's field hockey team, All-Philadelphia team, competed internationally. Their application to the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp was denied, but they played in an English tournament and lost both games.[3]

1922 - The U.S. Field Hockey Association, the National Governing Body for field hockey in the United States, was established.[3]

1924 - The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) held the first national basketball tournament for women with six teams.[5]

1926 - The Amateur Athletic Union sponsored the first-ever national women's basketball championship.[6]

1926 - New York City native Gertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel, which she did in fourteen hours, thirty-one minutes, beating the best time to date.[7]


1931 - Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned women from professional baseball. He felt that he needed to after a seventeen year old pitcher Virne Beatrice “Jackie” Mitchell stroked out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game.[4]

1932 - Babe Didrikson was named Associate Press Woman Athlete of the Year for track and field after she scored enough points at the AAU national meet to win the team championship by herself. She scored thirty points as a result of winning six gold medals and breaking four world records which totaled thirty points, eight points more than the whole second place team earned.[8]

1936 - The All American Red Heads Team, a barnstorming troupe similar to the Bloomer Girls, was formed. It is generally regarded as the first women's professional basketball team.[6]

1936 - Ruth Hughes Aarons was the first American that won the world singles table tennis championship.[9]

1937 - Grace Hudowalski was the ninth person and first woman to climb all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks.[10][11][12]


1943 - The All-American Girls Softball League was formed under Chicago White Sox owner Philip Wrigley. The League gradually transformed into the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.[6]

1949 - Marcenia Lyle Alberga was the first woman to play a full season in a professional men’s baseball league.[4]

1949 - Sara Christian became the first female NASCAR driver, racing in the inaugural NASCAR race at Charlotte Speedway, even though she had Bob Flock finish the race. [13] In the second official race at Daytona Beach and Road Course, also in 1949, Christian was joined by Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith, with Mobley finishing ahead of the 3, at 11th.[14]


1950 - Kathryn Johnston, only twelve years old, was the first girl to play Little League Baseball. She played for the King’s Dairy team in Corning, NY.[15]

1951 - Betty Chapman was the first African American professional softball player.[4]

1953 – The USA women’s basketball team won the gold in the first international basketball game.[5]

1953 - Toni Stone, also known by her married name Marcenia Lyle Alberga, was the first of three women to play Negro league baseball, and thus the first woman to play as a regular on an American big-league professional baseball team. [16] [17]

1954 - The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played its last season.[6]

1955 - The first LPGA championship was held.[18]

1959 - Arlene Pieper became the first woman to officially finish a marathon in the United States when she finished the Pikes Peak Marathon.[19] [20]


1966 - The first intercollegiate women's basketball tournament was played in Pennsylvania.[5]

1966 - Roberta Louise "Bobbi" Gibb was the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon.[21]

1967 - Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry.[22]


1970 - Mary Jo Peppler of the United States was voted the most outstanding volleyball player in the world at the International Games in Bulgaria.[23]

1971 - The five-player, full-court game and the thirty-second shot clock was introduced to women's basketball.[5]

1972 - President Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Educational Amendment of 1972.[6]

1973 - Billie Jean King won the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match against Bobby Riggs.[24]

1973 - Billie Jean King founded the Women's Tennis Association, uniting all of women's professional tennis in one tour. [25]

1973 - The first American to win the gymnastics title and an Olympic gold was Marcia Frederick.[26]

1974 - The Women's Sports Foundation was created by Billie Jean King. It is "a charitable educational organization dedicated to increasing the participation of girls and women in sports and fitness and creating an educated public that supports gender equity in sport." The first women's professional football league (WPFL) kicks off its inaugural season with seven teams.[6]

1974 - The first women's professional football league in America (WPFL) kicked off its inaugural season with seven teams.[6]

1974 - Lanny Moss was the first woman to manage a professional men’s baseball team. She was hired by the minor league Portland Mavericks.[4]

1976 - In the first Women’s Professional Softball World Series Championship the Connecticut Falcons came out on top.[4]

1977 - Janet Guthrie was the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500,[27] and the first woman to lead a NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Sprint Cup Series) event.[28]

1977 - Shirley Muldowney was the first woman to win a NHRA championship, in the Top Fuel category.

1979 - At the Pan-American Games the United States Women’s National Team won the gold medal.[4]

1979 - Crystal Fields, only eleven years old, was the first girl to win a baseball Pitch, Hit, and Run competition. She competed against all boys in the finals.[4]

1979 - At the second Ironman Triathlon held in Honolulu Hawaii, Lyn Lemaire placed sixth overall and became the first Ironwoman.[29]


1980 - The first woman to run a mile under four and a half minutes was Mary Decker.[8]

1984 - The U.S. Women’s softball team won the championship in the first Women’s International Cup played in Los Angeles, beating China, 1-0.[4]

1984 - Joan Benoit of the U.S. won the first Olympic marathon for women.[30]

1986 - Ann Bancroft was the first woman to reach the North Pole by foot and dogsled, "...she became the first known woman to cross the ice to the North Pole."[31]

1986 - Nancy Lieberman joined the United States Basketball League (USBL), thus becoming the first woman to play in a men’s professional basketball league. [32]

1988 - Shawna Robinson was the first woman to win a NASCAR-sanctioned stock car race, winning in the Charlotte/Daytona Dash Series at New Asheville Speedway.[33]

1988 - Stacy Allison became the first American woman to climb Mount Everest.[34]

1989 – Julie Croteau was the first woman to play NCAA baseball on first base for Division III St. Mary’s (MD) College.[4]


1991 - FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) began the Women’s World Cup, which was won by the US Women’s Soccer Team.[35]

1993 - Sherry Davies became the first woman public address announcer in major league baseball, working for the San Francisco Giants.[4]

1993 - USA Boxing officially lifted its ban on women's boxing in October 1993. [36]

1995 - Ila Borders was the first woman to pitch in a men’s collegiate baseball game.[4]

1996 - Women’s soccer and women’s softball became medal sports at the Olympic Games for the first time; both events were won by US teams.[4]

1996 - Dot Richardson hit the first home run in Olympic softball history, helping the U.S. softball team win the gold medal.[4]

1996 - Spalding Sports introduced the first baseball glove specifically designed to fit a woman’s hand.[4]

1997 - The WNBA began.[37]


2001 - Stephanie Ready was the first female coach of a men's professional league team in 2001, as an assistant coach for the now defunct Greenville Groove of the National Basketball Development League (the minor league of the National Basketball Association).[38][39]

2005 - Danica Patrick was the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500.[40]

2005 - The organizers of the New York City Marathon announced they would be rewarding the female champion $130,000, that is $30,000 more than its male winner received. This may be the first time a sporting event ever paid more to a female than a male in the same competition. It is also the largest first prize for any marathon.[29]

2006 - Violet Palmer, forty-one, became the first woman to referee an NBA playoff game.[5]

2008 - Danica Patrick was the first woman to win an IndyCar Series by winning the 2008 Indy Japan 300.[41]

2009 - Nancy Lieberman became the coach of the Texas Legends in the NBA Development League, an affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks, thus making her the first woman to coach a professional men's basketball team.[42]

2012 - Shannon Eastin was the first woman to officiate a National Football League game in a pre-season matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the San Diego Chargers.[43]

2013 - On her fifth attempt and at age 64, Diana Nyad was the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage, swimming from Havana to Key West.[44]

2013- Danica Patrick was the first woman to win the pole for the Daytona 500 and became the first woman to lead the Daytona 500.

2013 - On March 1, 2013, Privateers owner and president Nicole Kirnan served as the team’s coach for the first time, making her the first woman to coach a professional hockey team in the United States.[45] [46]

2014 - The first women, including American women, competed in ski jumping at the Olympics.[47]

2014 - Anne B. France won the inaugural Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. [48]

2014 - Shelby Osborne became the first female defensive back in American football when she was drafted by Campbellsville University in Kentucky.[49]

2014 - Gabrielle Augustine pitched the final two innings for Hunter's Inn, thus becoming the first woman to play in the Glenwood Baseball League, which is the longest-running amateur baseball league in the United States, founded in 1920.[50]

2014 - During the two-week 2014 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Natalie Nakase was an assistant coach for the Clippers, becoming the first woman to sit on the bench as an NBA assistant.[53][54][55][56]

2014 - Michele A. Roberts was elected as the new Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, thus making her the first woman to be elected to the highest position of a major sport’s players association within the United States. [57]

2014 - Becky Hammon became the first full-time female coach in the NBA - and the first full-time female coach in in any of the four major professional sports in America - as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. [58]

2014 - Catherine “Cat” Conti became the first female referee in Big 12 football history. [59]

2014 - The United States won its first women's volleyball world championship title (the Volleyball Women's World Championship). [60]


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  53. ^ Lisa Boyer was an assistant for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001–02, but she neither sat on the bench nor traveled for away games, and she was paid by the Cleveland Rockers of the WNBA and not by the Cavaliers. Becky Hammon was hired by the San Antonio Spurs for the 2014–15 season, becoming the first woman to either be paid or work full-time as an NBA assistant.[51][52]
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