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February 16: Women’s Basketball

Lawrence Bush
February 16, 2010

SpaldingGuideWomen1915Senda Berenson, the first woman inaugurated into the Basketball Hall of Fame, died on this date in 1954. Known as “The Mother of Women’s Basketball,” she was the first physical education instructor at Smith College, and in 1893 she conducted the first women’s basketball game — sophomores against freshmen. Six years later she modified the rules of men’s basketball to establish the women’s game. Her rules book stressed cooperation over individual competitive play, with three zones and six players on each team. To ensure decorum and prevent her students from developing “dangerous nervous tendencies and losing the grace and dignity and self-respect we would all have her foster,” Berenson forbade stealing the ball, holding it for more than three seconds or dribbling it more than three times.
“[Women need] all the more to develop health and endurance if they desire to become candidates for equal wages.” —Senda Berenson

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.