Learning to Win: Sports, Education, and Social Change in Twentieth-Century North Carolina

By Pamela Grundy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
Our Own Ability
Sport and Image among
College Women, 1900–1920

The first intercollegiate basketball game in the history of Charlotte, North Carolina, took place in the rain on the afternoon of April 8, 1907. At precisely 4:30 p.m. two teams spilled onto the outdoor field, accompanied by “a tumult of cheers and an avalanche of streamers.” A large and eager audience ringed the court, standing along the sidelines or watching from the advantageous seats of horse-drawn carriages. Spectators unable to secure admission scaled nearby buildings to catch glimpses of the grounds. Although the game ended with the low score of 10-4, it became the talk of the city, prompting even the jaded reporter assigned by the Charlotte Observer to describe it as “a scene such as is not witnessed everyday in staid old Charlotte.” 1

The game that caused the fuss differed considerably from the contests that spark similar excitement today. The baskets were made of wood supports with wire mesh backboards, and a ladder was still required to retrieve the ball from the closed nets after a score. A jump ball was held not only to start each half but after every basket. The heavy laces on the leather ball made dribbling a risky operation. And the Observer reporter's information had come secondhand, “on good authority” he promised, because at this unprecedented public meeting between the young women from Charlotte's Elizabeth and Presbyterian colleges, male spectators were forbidden. 2

Even as North Carolina's young college men sought some measure of salvation on the football field, the state's female collegians laid claim to the basketball court. Basketball had been invented in 1891 when a young YMCA instructor named James Naismith wrote down thirteen rules for a game that could be played indoors. The first women's contest took place less than a month later, and by the turn of the century basketball had become the most popular pastime at women's schools from Maine to California. A decade before North Carolina's

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