Women’s Basketball: Past and Present

Tonight the women’s basketball team kicks off their season with a game against Juniata at 7:00 p.m. Come support our team and #WitnessThePower.

The Dickinson Archives houses a huge box of materials about the history of women’s basketball at the College; during a visit this summer, we discovered some interesting gems.

There are many letters between the Dickinson coach and coaches from other schools trying to schedule games. When Della Durant from Penn State wrote in January 1969 to Dickinson’s women’s basketball coach, Lee Ann Wagner, about arranging a game for the 1970 season, Wagner had to accept the proposed date on a tentative basis, as 1969 was the first year for the women’s intercollegiate basketball team and the team was considered “temporary.” Wagner continued, “If the women don’t ask for too much (as of now we have only three regular practice times per week), perhaps we will be able to keep going.”

Just a few years later, things seemed to improve. In the 1975-6 folder of materials, there is an undated memorandum from Mac Cunningham, the women’s basketball coach, to Katie Barber, the coordinator of women athletes. The memo covers many items, but one of the most interesting is the mention of a request from Admissions for more information about women’s basketball as “they are getting more questions” about it.

On January 23, 1976, there was a game between the Dickinson Faculty Team and the women’s basketball team. In a memo announcing the game, Coach Cunningham wrote, “we are hopeful that the student body will have some fun and we can give exposure to the women’s team.” That’s a creative way to promote the team! It was a close game. According to the January 30 Dickinsonian, the faculty “eeked (sic) out a 47 to 46 victory” (15). The article bemoans the lack of attendance at the game and the general lack of interest in women’s sports on campus. We generally continue to see fewer fans at women’s games than at men’s, which is why the WGRC started the Witness the Power campaign.

Notes from a December 1, 1980 captain’s meeting demonstrate that the team captains took their role very seriously: they discussed positive encouragement and leading by example, among other items. This commitment to leadership continues, as two women basketball players were involved in founding The Heras, and developing the “eight core values of the society: scholarship, sportsmanship, leadership, equality, service, integrity, tenacity and resilience.”

Are you interested in learning more? The Dickinson Archives are open to student researchers. They also host an on-line exhibit of Women’s Experiences at Dickinson.

Written by Donna M. Bickford, Ph.D., Director, Women’s and Gender Resource Center

Thanks to Malinda Triller-Doran, Special Collections Librarian, for her help with this research.