Women's basketball caused a stir when it came to Pacific. Female students could play, so long as men didn't watch. Today, women's athletics are a thriving part of the student experience.
“Basketball is practically a new game at Pacific and yet the little experience we have had in practice and interclass games has shown us that there is good material both among the girls and boys out of which to develop winning teams.”
Yes, the girls.
The Nov. 15, 1905, issue of The Pacific Index reported that both men and women were gearing up for a season of the relatively new-fangled game of basketball.
Women had participated in athletics at Pacific before. They were members of the archery team, and they played on the tennis squad with the men.
Basketball, however, was something a little different.
Nationwide, college women playing basketball caused a stir. This was an era when women — constricted in corsets and floor-length skirts — were considered delicate, prone to illness and fainting. They were not supposed to move too much or become over-excited.
And then, some women actually started playing basketball in bloomers!
The 1902 Heart of Oak yearbook shows a girls basketball team from Tualatin Academy (above) posing in high collars, full sleeves, and ankle-length skirts or occasionally bloomers, along with dark hosiery. But even that caused some concern for administrators, who in early 1905 determined that only officials and other women could be present at the college-level girls games.
“The ruling at Pacific that men shall be excluded from [watching] basket ball [sic] games played by girls has been taken up by the evening Telegram, and given occasion for considerable comment. The general opinion is that if basket ball is a proper game for girls to play, there is nothing improper in it being played publicly,” reported the Jan. 24 edition of The Pacific Index. “The girls who are playing regret the ruling very much, realizing that if their games are not to be played publicly there is no other way to put basket ball on a paying basis.”
It is unclear how long the women’s intra-class and intra-society games were closed to male spectators, but by 1922 the Women’s Athletic Association was officially established, allowing women to earn points toward a letter sweater for participating in swimming, gym class, tennis, hockey, baseball and basketball.
And, 110 years after the playing of women’s basketball raised eyebrows, Pacific women athletes are dominating. In Spring 2015, the women’s lacrosse team brought home the Northwest Conference championship, while the softball team tied for second in the conference earning a place in the championship tournament.
“Good material,” indeed. ■
This story first appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Pacific magazine. For more stories, visit pacificu.edu/magazine.