Timeline: A Brief History of Women’s Team Sports in America


1866The all-female Vassar College fields two student baseball teams.
1875The first professional baseball match between all-female teams is held between the Blondes and the Brunettes in Springfield, IL.
1890Bloomer Girls, hundreds of teams consisting primarily of women, begin to get paid as they travel the country playing baseball against men’s teams.
1892Gymnastics instructor Senda Berenson Abbott adapts James Naismith’s basketball rules for women and introduces the game to her students at Smith College.
1896The first women’s intercollegiate basketball championship is held between Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley.
1926The Amateur Athletic Union sponsors the first-ever national women’s basketball championship.
1934After playing for more than 40 years, the last of the Bloomer Girls teams disbands.
1936The All American Red Heads Team, a barnstorming troupe similar to the Bloomer Girls, is formed. It is generally regarded as the first women’s professional basketball team.
1943To fill the void left by many major league players enlisting for war, the All-American Girls Softball League is formed under Chicago White Sox owner Philip Wrigley. The League gradually transforms into the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.
1954The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League plays its last season.
1972President Richard Nixon signs Title IX of the Educational Amendment of 1972.
1974The Women’s Sports Foundation is created by Billie Jean King. It is “a charitable educational organization dedicated to increasing the participation of girls and women in sports and fitness and creating an educated public that supports gender equity in sport.” The first women’s professional football league (WPFL) kicks off its inaugural season with seven teams.
1977The first varsity women’s soccer program begins at Brown University.
1988American Women’s Baseball Association (AWBA) forms a four team league in Chicago.
1991FIFA stages the first women’s World Cup in China. The U.S. team wins the Championship and triggers a national fervor for the game.
1996National Women’s Baseball Association is formed to serve as an umbrella organization for various professional teams across the country.
1996Women’s soccer makes its Olympics debut in Atlanta, enticing many of the top international stars to stay in the game instead of opting for retirements. The U.S. team wins the gold medal.
1996The NBA Board of Governors approves the concept of a Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) to begin play in June 1997.
1997The inaugural Women’s National Basketball Association season begins on June 21.
2000The National Women’s Football League (NWFL) is formed
2000Major U.S. media companies and individual investors join forces with the nation’s leading female soccer stars to form the women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA). First Women’s Football Super Bowl is played in Pasadena Stadium in Texas.

TITLE IX access to sporting opportunities in the US. This is even more valid for organized professional team sports. One of the pivotal events in this long journey was the passing of Title IX Educational Amendments which states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” These few words are credited with launching a revolution in education and sports for women. When Title IX was passed in 1972 there were fewer than 32,000 women competing in intercollegiate athletics, according to an Associated Press article. Today more than 110,000 women participate in college sports and the number of female athletes in high school has increased from about 300,000 to 2.13 million. Many prominent female athletes have also credited this amendment with opening the door of opportunity in sports for them.