A Woman to Know: Senda Berenson Abbott

We need to cultivate the spirit that fair play comes first — defeat or victory afterwards. — Senda

(image via Wikimedia Commons)


As Senda wrote in her "Official Basketball Guide for Women" (pub date: 1916! Repeat: 1916. 1 9 1 6!): "Until recent years, the so-called ideal woman was a small-waisted, small-footed, small-brained damsel who prided herself on her delicate health, who thought fainting interesting and hysterics fascinating."

Senda was not one for fainting — and certainly not one for hysterics. In 1899, Senda heard about the new game of basketball, started at a YMCA in Springfield, Massachusetts with just a peach carton and a ball. At the time, she was teaching gymnastics at Smith College in nearby Northampton, begging college administrators to mandate physical education for the health of her students. Senda saw basketball as the perfect combination of social time with fitness time. She revised the rules for women (skirts required), authored her own guide to the sport ("braid your hair") and created a college-wide sensation — the beginnings of the WNBA.

But beyond the championship teams at Smith, Senda had grand hopes for the benefit of women's basketball, and even grander ambitions for the future of sports in America. She wanted women's play to get the recognition it deserved. She dreamed of a world in which children (boys *and* girls) turned to basketball for stress relief, team bonding, emotional centering, gender equality and more. We're almost there, Senda. 🏀

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~ Thank you to Rachel G. Bowers for recommending Senda as a woman to know! (And for chilling/supporting/enriching this newsletter's existence). Follow her on Twitter for more ladies/sports/lady sports stuff! ~

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