Timeline of women's sports in the United States

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This is a timeline of women's sports in the United States.

Impressions of women athletes in the United States from 1600, as drawn in 1911 by artist and reporter Marguerite Martyn


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 U.S. Open.[1]

1889 - Bertha Townsend and Margarette Ballard, both of the United States, won the first Women's Doubles at the U.S. Open.

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 Berkeley. 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]



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]

1909 - Alice Huyler Ramsey became the first woman to drive across the United States.[4]


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.[5]

1914 - Women's basketball rules changed to allow half-court play.[6]

1916 — The Women's International Bowling Congress, the all-female counterpart to the 1895-founded all-male American Bowling Congress for the tenpin bowling sport is established.


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

1923 - The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) sponsored the first national championships for women in track and field

1924 - The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) held the first national basketball tournament for women with six teams.[6]

1926 - The Amateur Athletic Union sponsored the first-ever national women's basketball championship.[7]

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.[8]


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 struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game.[5]

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, eight points more than the whole second place team earned.[9]

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.[7]

1936 - Ruth Hughes Aarons was the first American that won the world singles table tennis championship.[10]

1937 - Grace Hudowalski was the ninth person and first woman to climb all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks.[11][12][13]


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.[7]

1949 - Marcenia Lyle Alberga was the first woman to play a full season in a professional men's baseball league.[5]

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.[14] 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.[15]


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.[16] Kathryn played at first base for the season, but then had to stop because of her age (she turned 13.) After that, a rule prohibited girls from playing in Little League; this was in force until 1974.[17]

1951 - Betty Chapman was the first African American professional softball player.[5]

1952 - Patricia McCormick began bullfighting as a professional Matadora in January 1952, and was the first American to do so.[18]

1953 – The USA women's basketball team won the gold in the first international basketball game.[6]

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.[19][20]

1954 - The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League played its last season.[7]

1955 - The first LPGA championship was held.[21]

1959 - Arlene Pieper became the first woman to officially finish a marathon in the United States when she finished the Pikes Peak Marathon.[22][23]


1960 - Mary McGee earns a FIM license and becomes the first official female motorcycle racer in the United States.

1961 - The WIBC Queens all-female tenpin bowling tournament is first established.

1966 - The first intercollegiate women's basketball tournament was played in Pennsylvania.[6]

1966 - Roberta Louise "Bobbi" Gibb was the first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon.[24]

1967 - Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry.[25]

1969 - Barbara Jo Rubin became the first female jockey to win a race in the United States.[26]


1970 - Mary Jo Peppler of the United States was voted the most outstanding volleyball player in the world at the International Games in Bulgaria.[27]

1971 - Cheryl White, an American, became the first black female jockey.[26][28]

1971 - The five-player, full-court game and the thirty-second shot clock was introduced to women's basketball.[6]

1971 - The Amateur Athletic Union ruled that "certain women" could take part in marathons, provided they either started their race 10 minutes before or after the men or on a different starting line.[29] The different starting line requirement was dropped in 1972.[29]

1972 - President Richard Nixon signed Title IX of the Educational Amendment of 1972.[7]

1972 - Nina Kuscsik became the first woman to officially win the Boston Marathon.[30]

1973 - Billie Jean King won the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match against Bobby Riggs.[31]

1973 - Billie Jean King founded the Women's Tennis Association, uniting all of women's professional tennis in one tour.[32]

1973 - Terry Williams Munz became the first woman in America awarded an athletic scholarship when she accepted a golf scholarship from the University of Miami.[33]

1973 - The first American to win the gymnastics title and an Olympic gold was Marcia Frederick.[34]

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.[7]

1974 - The first women's professional football league in America (WPFL) kicked off its inaugural season with seven teams.[7]

1974 - Lanny Moss was the first woman to manage a professional men's baseball team. She was hired by the minor league Portland Mavericks.[5]

1976 - In the first Women's Professional Softball World Series Championship the Connecticut Falcons came out on top.[5]

1977 - Janet Guthrie was the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and the Daytona 500,[35] and the first woman to lead a NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Sprint Cup Series) event.[36]

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.[5]

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.[5]

1979 - At the second Ironman Triathlon held in Honolulu Hawaii, Lyn Lemaire placed sixth overall and became the first Ironwoman.[37]


1980 - The first woman to run a mile under four and a half minutes was Mary Decker.[9]

1982 - The National Collegiate Athletic Association began sponsoring women's basketball.[38]

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.[5]

1984 - Joan Benoit of the U.S. won the first Olympic marathon for women.[39]

1985 - Libby Riddles became the first woman to win the Iditarod.[40]

1985 - Karyn Marshall became the first woman in history to clean and jerk over 300 lb (136 kg), with a 303 lb (137.5 kg) clean and jerk.[41]

1985 - The United States national soccer team was formed.[42]

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."[43]

1986 - Nancy Lieberman joined the United States Basketball League (USBL), thus becoming the first woman to play in a men's professional basketball league.[44]

1987 - Tania Aebi completed a solo circumnavigation of the globe in a 26-foot sailboat between the ages of 18 and 21, making her the first American woman to sail around the world.[45][46]

1987 - The first women's world championship in weightlifting was held; it was held in Daytona Beach, Florida and won by Karyn Marshall.[47][48][49]

1987 - The [American] National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is an annual day of observance held during the first week of February to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, recognize the influence of sports participation for women and girls, and honor the progress and continuing struggle for equality for women in sports.[50][51]

1987 - Each year since its inception in 1987, the United States Congress recognizes women's contributions to sports and society on a day during the first week of February.[52]

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.[53]

1988 - Stacy Allison became the first American woman to climb Mount Everest.[54]

1989 – Julie Croteau was the first woman to play NCAA baseball on first base for Division III St. Mary's (MD) College.[5]


1991 - The first FIFA Women's World Cup tournament was held and won by the United States women's national soccer team.[55]

1992 - Major League Baseball lifted the ban on the signing of women to contracts, a ban that had existed since 1952.[56]

1992 - Manon Rhéaume, from Canada, became the first woman to play in a National Hockey League game, which also made her the first woman to play in any of the major professional North American sports leagues; she played for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the St. Louis Blues, and stopped seven of nine shots.[57][58]

1993 - Sherry Davies became the first woman public address announcer in major league baseball, working for the San Francisco Giants.[5]

1993 - USA Boxing officially lifted its ban on women's boxing in October 1993.[59]

1993 - Julie Krone became the first female jockey to win a Triple Crown race when she won the Belmont Stakes.[60]

1995 - Ila Borders was the first woman to pitch in a men's collegiate baseball game.[5]

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.[5]

1996 - Dot Richardson hit the first home run in Olympic softball history, helping the U.S. softball team win the gold medal.[5]

1996 - Spalding Sports introduced the first baseball glove specifically designed to fit a woman's hand.[5]

1997 - The WNBA began.[61]

President Bill Clinton congratulates the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup-winning United States women's national soccer team on the White House South Lawn and receives a #99 jersey, July 1999.

1999 - The United States women's national soccer team won its second FIFA Women's World Cup tournament after defeating China in penalty kicks in front of 90,185 fans at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.


2000 - Following the success of the 1999 FIFA Women's World Cup, the first professional soccer league for women in the United States, Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) was launched featuring several players from the national soccer team.

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).[62][63]

2003 - The Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) folds. Neither television ratings nor attendance met forecasts, while the league spent its initial $40 million budget, planned to last five years, by the end of the first season.

2005 - Danica Patrick was the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500.[64]

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.[37]

2006 - Violet Palmer, forty-one, became the first woman to referee an NBA playoff game.[6]

2008 - Danica Patrick was the first woman to win an IndyCar Series by winning the 2008 Indy Japan 300.[65]

2009 - Danica Patrick finishes 3rd in the Indianapolis 500 the highest finishing woman in that event.

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.[66]

2009 - The second professional women's soccer league, Women's Professional Soccer, is launched.

2010 - Kelly Kulick won the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions, where she was the first-ever female competitor in the field.[67] This also made her the first woman to win any Professional Bowlers Association Tour event that was also open to men.[68]

2012 - The U.S. Olympic team had more women than men for the first time — 269 female athletes to 261 men.[69]

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.[70]

2012 - The Women's Professional Soccer (WPS), the second professional women's soccer league in the United States, suspends operations citing several internal organization struggles as the primary cause, including an ongoing legal battle with ex-franchise owner Dan Borislow, and the lack of resources invested into the league.[71]

2012 - The National Women's Soccer League, the third professional women's soccer league in the United States, launches with eight teams across the United States. The 2016 season marks the first time an American women's professional soccer league continues running beyond three years.

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.[72]

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, and finishes 8th in the event highest finish for a woman in that event.

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.[73][74]

2014 - On May 31, 2014, it was announced that women could compete in medieval combat as a sport for the first time, and later that year Amy Graham was crowned medieval combat world champion at the IMCF (International Medieval Combat Federation) world championship. That year she also won the championship medal for the USA Valkyrie Melee Team.[75]

2014 - Anne B. France won the inaugural Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.[76]

2014 - Shelby Osborne became the first female defensive back in American football when she was drafted by Campbellsville University in Kentucky.[77]

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.[78]

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.[81][82][83][84]

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.[85]

2014 - Becky Hammon became the first full-time female coach in the NBA - and the first full-time female coach in any of the four major professional sports in America - as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.[86]

2014 - Catherine “Cat” Conti became the first female referee in Big 12 football history.[87]

2014 - The United States won its first women's volleyball world championship title (the Volleyball Women's World Championship).[88]

2014 - Kelly Xu, of Santa Monica, Calif., won the girls 7-9 division in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, thus becoming the first female champion ever crowned at Augusta National Golf Club.[89][90]

United States women's national soccer team players at the Ticker Tape Parade, New York City, July 10, 2015

2015 - The winning United States women's national soccer team defeated former champions Japan 5–2 in the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Final, led by a hat trick by Carli Lloyd.[91] The team was honored with a historic ticker tape parade in New York City, marking the first time a women's sports team was celebrated in the city's Canyon of Heroes.[92]

2015 - Jennifer Welter became the first woman hired to coach in men's pro football when the Texas Revolution of the Champions Indoor Football league announced that Welter was hired to coach linebackers and special teams.[93]

2015 - Elana Meyers and pusher Cherrelle Garrett beat three German crews to win the first world championship title in women's bobsled for the United States.[94]

2015 - The first three African-Americans to place in the top three spots at the 100 yard freestyle in any Women's Division I NCAA Swimming Championship were: Simone Manuel, Lia Neal, and Natalie Hinds in that order.[95]

2015 - Sarah Thomas became the first full-time female official in National Football League history.[96]

2015 - The World Series of Poker Circuit had its first female main event champion when Michelle Chin won the Horseshoe Council Bluffs $1,675 Main Event.[97]

2015 - Cindy Abbott became the first woman to both complete the Iditarod and summit Mount Everest; she climbed Mount Everest in 2010. [98]

2015 - On May 21, 2015, the United Women's Lacrosse League was co-founded in Boston, Massachusetts by Digit Murphy and Aronda Kirby of the Play It Forward Sports Foundation in a strategic partnership with STX.[99]

2015 - McKenna Haase became the first woman to win a feature Sprint Car race at Knoxville Raceway.[100]

2015 - The first American all-girls national baseball tournament was held.[101]

2015 - The first known all-girls tackle football league in America, the Utah Girls Tackle Football League, was formed.[102][103]

2015 - On July 3, 2015, the Spurs (of the NBA) announced that Becky Hammon would be the team's Summer League head-coach, the first female to head-coach in that league.[104] The Spurs won the NBA Las Vegas Summer League title in 2015 with her as head coach.[105][106]

2015 - On July 27, 2015, the Arizona Cardinals hired Jennifer Welter as an assistant coaching intern for training camp and the preseason; as such, she is believed to be the first female coach in the NFL.[107][108]

2015 - At the World Championships, Katie Ledecky became the first swimmer to win the 200-, 400-, 800- and 1,500-meter freestyles in a major competition.[109]

2015 - Sarah Thomas was hired as the first full-time female official in NFL history.[110]

2015 - Stephanie Ready was named as the first full-time female NBA game analyst.[111]

2015 - Justine Siegal became the Oakland Athletics guest instructor for their Instructional League Club, thus making her the first female coach in professional baseball history.[112]

2015 - Laura Ann Foshee became the first woman to be awarded a college bass fishing scholarship for competitive fishing; the scholarship was for the Savannah College of Art and Design.[113]

2015 - Jessica Mendoza, John Kruk, and Dan Shulman called the 2015 American League Wild Card Game on October 6, and thus Mendoza became the first female analyst in Major League Baseball postseason history.[114][115]

2015 - The Raleigh Flyers of the American Ultimate Disc League signed the first ever female professional ultimate frisbee player, Jessi Jones, to play in their game against the Nashville Nightwatch. Jones, who was a team USA U-23 player in 2013, was signed as part of "Women's Ultimate Day".[116][117]

2016 - Kathryn Smith became the first woman to be a full-time coach in the NFL, when she was hired by the Buffalo Bills as a special teams quality control coach.[118]

2016 - Breanna Stewart was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four (making her the first person to be most outstanding player of the Final Four four times).[119]

2016 - With their eleventh championship win in 2016, the UConn Huskies passed the UCLA Bruins men's team for most college basketball championships, and became the first Division 1 women's basketball team to win four straight national championships.[120]

2016 - Catherine "Cat" Conti fired by Pac-12 Conference and released from NFL Officiating Development Program.

2016 - In August 2016, Dawn Braid was hired as the Arizona Coyotes’ skating coach, making her the first female full-time coach in the National Hockey League.[121]

2016 - Samantha Rapoport was hired by the NFL as the Director of Football Development, charged with increasing female participation with the league.[122]

2017 - The Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team obtained the longest winning streak in college basketball (both men's and women's), 111 straight wins, which started with a win against Creighton on December 23, 2014, and continued for 111 games until March 31, 2017, when they were beaten 66-64 on a last second shot in overtime by Mississippi State in the 2017 NCAA Final Four. This streak included an undefeated season in 2015–16.[123]

2017 - In the 2017 season, Jesse Shofner was selected to the roster for the Nashville Nightwatch, which made her the first female player to make a full season American Ultimate Disc League roster.[117]

2017 - Jesse Shofner scored two goals in the Nashville Nightwatch's first game of the 2017 season, making her the first woman to do so in any American Ultimate Disc League game.[124]

See also[edit]


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