Women started to play basketball about one year after the game was invented in 1892. The early uniforms were Victorian and very concealing and restricting. The uniforms only showed the hands, neck, and head of the women playing the game.The length of the skirts went to the floor which caused many accident on the courts. This resulted in broken bones and bruises.
Finally in 1896, bloomers were introduced by the Sophie Newcomb College in New Orleans. This refreshing change in uniforms came due to a man. Dr Edward Morton Schaffer who wrote about the health problems caused by tight fitting corsets. He urged women to wear a divided skirt that allowed for movement when exercising. He stated that women in the Far East invented trousers.
Senda Berenson from Smith College read about the game invented by a man named James Naissmith in Springfield, MA. She wondered if the game would be good exercise for women to play. She changed the rules so society could accept the sport and divided the court into three areas. Women had to stay in the areas where they were assigned. Some of the rules she created were no taking the ball from other players, no holding onto the ball for more than 3 seconds, and women could only dribble three times.
Eleven months after she introduced the game, the first competition between two schools took place.The competititon was between the University of Berkley California and Miss Head’s school. By 1895, it was being played at Vassar, Wellesley, and Bryn Mawr. Rules were discussed and changed by the committees depending on where the game was played.
Still women’s basketball worried many doctors and teachers bringing as much protest as support to the game. As basketball became more popular women struggled with femininity and playing the game well. In 1936 a team called The Red Heads toured the country playing against men teams. The team members had to wear makeup, look stunning, dye their hair red or wear red wigs and play well.
In 1924 women were able to self govern the basketball competitions and three court system was reduced to two in 1938. In 1971 women were believed to be healthy and strong enough to play the game on a full court. In 1985, Sandra Berenson made the Naissmith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Women’s college basketball is now more popular than ever.