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Women's Basketball

Women's basletba;ll team, DeSoto, 1914

"March madness" generally refers to all of the excitement surrounding the men's NCAA basketball tournament but in recent years it could also apply to women's basketball in Kansas. Many younger women probably believe that girls could not participate in school sports prior to the passage of Title IX—legislation passed in 1972 that banned sex discrimination in schools in academics and athletics. Title IX has had a significant impact on high school and college athletics and it still is controversial.

However, women's basketball in Kansas has a much longer but also more obscure history. Surprisingly, women's and girls' basketball did exist in Kansas in the early 1900s.

Washburn University's girls' basketball team won the Kansas women's championship on January 29, 1904, defeating Haskell Institute 26 to 16. The game was played at the Y.W.C.A. gymnasium. In 1905 the Washburn girls' basketball team won seven games and lost one to the State Normal School at Emporia (now Emporia State University). They played Baker University, Haskell, Campbell College, and the Y.W.C.A., in addition to the Normal School. The Washburn yearbook for 1905 identified the team members as Miss Burdge, Miss Markham, Miss Wood, Miss Payne, and Miss Heiddleston.

The first statewide championship for high school boys' basketball was an invitational tournament at Kansas University, beginning in 1908. In 1909 this tournament included four girls' teams and the winning team was Beloit High School, defeating Chanute 15 to 8. The Beloit Daily Call described the team's return: "THE CONQUERING HEROINES CAME: B.H.S. Girls' Basket Ball Team Met at Trains by Band, and About 1,000 Citizens . . . Probably the largest demonstration and ovation ever given an athletic body in Beloit was the one accorded to the girls' basket ball team of the Beloit High school last night when the team returned home from Lawrence, bringing with it the large silver loving cup, emblematic of the championship of the state of Kansas in that class of athletics."

Chanute won the girls' tournament at Lawrence in 1910 by defeating Reno County High School from Nickerson 28 to 15. Six schools participated in the girls' bracket. Information on girls' teams winning the state basketball tournaments is available sporadically through the early 1920s. Numerous photos of girl's teams can be found, including some from Topeka High School, but it is much harder to find information on participants and records.

The Topeka Daily Capital on January 21, 1922, wrote that the Kansas High School Athletics Association voted to eliminate girl's basketball from all district and state tournaments. An article in the September 1928 issue of the Kansas State High School Athletics Association (predecessor to the Kansas State High School Activities Association) Bulletin indicated that the elimination of girls basketball was at the request of the Association of the Deans of Women in high schools and colleges, but the reason for that request was not offered. Over the next few years, the high school association did develop a program for girls sports called the Girls Athletic Association.

Even though it is unclear why girls' basketball disappeared from the state, we do know that it existed in Kansas in the first decades after the game was invented and brought to the state by James Naismith.

Entry: Women's Basketball

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2004

Date Modified: July 2011

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.