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Women's Sports History 1896-1977

Anna Hiss Favorite quote "A Sport for Every Girl and every girl in a sport"  



Most of the research for the history of Longhorn women's sports was derived from books written about Longhorn sports including the "Cactus" which has great photos of the history of Longhorn sports. All of the books  are listed in the credit section on this website.

In addition to these books there is one study and one thesis that discuss in detail the evolution of Women's sports at the University of Texas.  Miriam Richards writings delivered as part of the Capstone project in 2012, and Tessa M. Nichols, B.A. thesis written in 2007 titled Organizational Values and Women's Sport at The University of Texas, 1918-1993 add much needed professional depth to the the history of women's sports at UT Austin.  Tessa Nichols thesis  is one of the first attempts by any individual  to historically and empirically discuss the influence of the Longhorn Women's sports  leaders  Anna Hiss, Betty Thompson, and Donna Lopiano.  Miriam Richards link and a summary page of Tessa Nichols thesis are in the credit section and their comments are incorporated into the History of Longhorn sports on the TLSN site. 

This link takes you to Miriam Richards insightful work on the history of Longhorn women's basketball. The link is on the the Lutcher Stark Center web site-


It is stated in a report titled "A History of Women in Sport Prior to Title IX" Submitted by Richard C. Bell, Ed.D., J.D that prior to the 1870's women sports were recreational rather than competitive.  It was believed  that each human had a fixed amount of energy. If this energy were used for physical and intellectual tasks at the same time, it could be hazardous (Park & Hult, 1993). Horseback riding for pleasure, showboating, and swimming became fashionable, but women were not encouraged to exert themselves. Such physical activity for a woman was thought to be especially hazardous during the time of month she was “periodically weakened”  In 1874, as women were beginning to gain access to higher education, Dr. Edward Clarke published Sex in Education; or, A Fair Chance for Girls, which sparked a tenacious and acrimonious debate about the capacity of women for physical activity. He stated that, “both muscular and brain labor must be reduced at the onset of menstruation” ( p. 102). Manipulating science to reinforce established dogma prevailed for many years in spite of repeated examples of women who were perfectly capable of performing physical feats and intellectual tasks. Many early opportunities for women to engage in physical activity were thwarted as a result of this dogma (Park & Hult).

1896  Stanford and Cal Berkley basketball teams compete for the first intercollegiate championship 

The 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris introduces women's events, offering golf, tennis, and croquet.

The history of Women's Sports at the university of texas


Pearl Norvell is Directress of gymnastics.

January 13, 1900 Pearl Norvell organizes the First Women's basketball game at UT.  Miriam Richards writings at the Stark Center state that "Ideson and Whitis coed teams played four rudimentary 10-minute quarters in the basement of the old Main Building. Whitis won by a final score of 3-2. This first game set into motion the emergence of basketball as a popular sport at UT, especially among women."






Pearl Norvell is in the center with the ball. 








1901- Women's Basketball chooses different rules than men's basketball

  • In 1901 the men's basketball game is considered too rough for women so different rules are established. The players are assigned to one of three sections (see diagram below) and once a player is assigned a position she cannot move from that section. Only 3 dribbles per individual are allowed, and the player can only hold the ball for 3 seconds. Full court sprints or fast breaks were not part of the women's game.

  • These rules are implemented to reduce too much exertion which at the time many thought could "break something" that might hurt a players chance of being a mother. It is also thought that too much exercise "weakened" the womanly functions.

  • Dr. William Howard cautions "no girl with a nervous temperament should go into any athletic contest" because sports place a strain on the nervous system.



1902-Coach Norvell

Competition for Coach Norvell's Longhorn team consist of high school teams and the Austin YMCA. Women are instructed to not seek Individual recognition for their athletic skills.


Tennis Club


Miriam Richards says that "At the end of the 1902 season, The University's chose the first "all-star" team. The team receives recognition from the Texan, Cactus, and University Record publications as the varsity squad. Pearl Norvell serves as the coach and has eight players compete against the "Town Girls." The UT all-star team wins 7-4, with observers paying a 10-cent admission fee. However, men are not allowed to watch so many peered through the windows of the gym and cheered."

Miriam Richards states "With enthusiasm for playing basketball growing, Director Aden and the Dean of Women -Helen Marr Kirby- keep a close eye on developments of basketball at UT.  Basketball  teams are  not allowed to play off campus and several contest are cancelled due to  unidentified "unfortunate incidents" in the inter-class games. 





In October 1903, the Woman’s Building opened as the University’s first residence hall for women.  Many lawmakers were opposed to spending  $50,000 on construction of a dorm for women thinking that college women needed more supervision therefore should stay with Austin families.  A tie vote in the House required the Speaker to cast the deciding ballot to approve funding. 



The basement of the Woman’s Building was a  gym with pool, exercise area, dance classes, basketball, and running track.








Louise Wright replaces Pearl Norvell as Director of Physical Training. She helps organize a student run  Women's Athletic Association to coordinate all UT women's sports.

She  is instrumental is starting the tradition of awarding letters to Tennis players in 1904 and basketball players in 1906.  



Texas women host their first out of town competition. The Texan promotes the game as a contest between Baylor and Texas ,but the game is actually against Belton High School. Texas wins 12-6.




Physical training at U.T. becomes a requirement for all women students.






Louise Wright is instrumental in starting the tradition of awarding letters to qualifying women Tennis players.










1905-1921-  Eunice Aden

Eunice Aden is named named Director of Physical Training






Eunice Aden is instrumental in building a outdoor basketball court and the women's gym. She also continues to build on the tradition that recognizes  players accomplishments  with  "T" sweaters and blankets. 

Miriam Richards research states that  "Under the guidance of the Director of Women's Physical Education, Eunice Aden, recreational activities expanded". Basket ball teams are formed for each class (freshman, sophomore,... etc.)  During this period  basketball was the only sport with an intercollegiate component, but it is still primarily an intramural and inter-class event. "T" pins, letter sweaters, and a "Texas blanket" are awarded to those students who achieve the highest levels of participation based on a point system which is considered a significant achievement for female athletes on campus." 



"Letters" are approved for Women's basketball

1906 womens basketball.jpg




The Texas women's basketball team plays Its First Intercollegiate Game Against Southwestern University On Feb. 18th, 1907. Texas Loses 19-18.


1907 basketball

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1907 Tennis Club



Image of the 1908 women's varsity team is from the Dolph Briscoe Center

1909 and 1910


1911 w. sports.jpg

Basketball 1912



1914-  North Hall for Women's athletics



N. Hall known as the "shack" was acquired for women's athletics. Here is where the UT women's basketball players practice and play for over 15 years. Staying true to the ideals of the time, N Hall has little standing room for spectators-  particularly men.




In the early 20th century there was a reform in women's active wear. " The impractical clothing that modesty required impeded andy kind of physical activity.  In the case of swimsuits, the impracticality was also dangerous."  " The weight of the wet swimsuit posed real dangers of drowning."  Quote is from a picture hanging in the LBJ Library titled " Dress Reform and Sports". 





It was considered “unladylike” for coeds to get too rowdy so they only watched the football rallies. Yell leaders directed the group (sorry, ladies – men only!) in cheers. “Texas Fight!” and “Go, Horns, Go!” were not among them. Instead, one of the most popular was the Rattle-de-Thrat Yell. The program included rousing speeches by the head coach and team captains, UT president, and several deans. Students performed skits that often poked a little fun at the faculty.

womens fashions 1916.jpg

Thru the mid-1920s women were expected to dress fashionably and only allowed to clap, sing, and wave pennants. Yell leaders led only men in cheers. Any women caught "yelling" brought swift condemnation from the Dean of Women. Except for one day in 1916


One day in 1916




1918 w. tennis.jpg

1918 tennis




1920 Longhorn Sports

"The suffrage movement and passage of the 19th amendment in 1920 renewed the emphasis on women's freedoms resulting in modest gains for women in sports.  The onset of the Great Depression in 1929  negated most of those gains.  Millions of American were unemployed and there was a push to keep women at home and out of the workforce.  Not until WWII would women again enter the public sphere in large numbers. "  Quote is from a picture titled "Education and Athletics" found in the LBJ Library. 


The "T" sweater

1921-1957  Anna Hiss Heads The  Women's Physical Education Department.


In 1919 and 1920 Anna Hiss supports the creation of the W.A.A. a student let Women's Athletic Association.  Tessa Nichols states in her thesis that "the promotion of student involvement in the governing bodies of women's collegiate sport was one of Hiss's strongest and most commonly overlooked convictions." 





Top of the charts 1921






Texas Woman's University offers the first Texas degree program for physical education.


History of the struggle for women's sports  (8).jpg

Anna Hiss

Texas Woman's University offers the first Texas degree program for physical education.

In Tessa Nichols thesis titled  Organizational Values and Women's Sport at The University of Texas, 1918 -1992 she states that Anna Hiss has to deal with societies "fear of the masculinization of female athletes".  Hiss's tenets focus on "individual activity" played in moderation in a strictly female space with the goal of promoting "health , fun , and sportsmanship" "without fear of sexual harm or the taint of masculinity." "The underlying principle" for women's sports  is  to "play for play's sake". 

Hiss continues to de-emphasize team competition in the sports curriculum- specifically basketball


Only the 20 best UT swimmers make the Turtle club. 



1922 Women's World Games, held in Paris, included the first regular track and field competitions for women.



Swim Club



Anna Hiss is instrumental in forming a state physical education association for women.







The inter-class basketball team above won the first Co-op silver loving cup.  


Tennis competition is set up on a ladder system.     Lower individuals on the ladder can challenge higher people.  If the challenger wins she replaces the higher seeded individual.





UT Austin creates a college of Physical Education.



Tennis is considered the most developed major sport among the co-eds unless inter-collegiate athletics are added to the curriculum. 


A low point for women's sports.  The Cactus did not even cover women's sports in 1925.




PH.D. D.K. Brace is the first head of the Department of Physical Education. He develops the first Master's and Doctors degree programs in Physical education in Texas. (data from the "History of Physical Education in Texas: an analysis of the Role of D.K. Brace." Ph.D. dissertation , USC 1967) .

AAU has the first -ever national women's basketball championship.



Clubs are the primary source of inter-group sports competition. The clubs goal  is to help "girls" who complete the physical training courses enhance their skills and compete with the best anywhere. The governing body is the Women's Athletic Association.  

1928 w. tennis.jpg

1928 Tennis

golf woment 1928.jpg

Golf 1928



The first course of study  for women in physical education is implemented.   Physical Education credit  toward high school graduation was accepted,  but the credits did not count toward admission to college. 

















The Texas relays features a marathon for women only.  The media promotes this event as "A race which has no parallel in Texas sporting history".  No Texas Longhorn women participates in the Texas Relay marathon, but the fact there are Women Marathon runners proves that women are capable of  competing in "stressful" sporting events. 




Anna  convinces the University administration that UT is falling behind other major universities in the development of  on campus women sports facilities.   

She was the oldest living inductee in the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and a female tennis pioneer, an amazing & compassionate woman and strong believer.

The Texas Tennis Museum and Hall of Fame Inductee Eugenie “Jeannie” Sampson Kamrath Gonzalez

Eugenie “Jeannie” Sampson Kamrath Gonzalez

Eugenie “Jeannie” Sampson Kamrath Gonzalez

Before her first marriage to Karl Kamrath, she was invited by famed University of Texas tennis coach, Dr. D. A. Penick, to play tennis on the UT Varsity men’s tennis courts in 1931—the first woman player to be so honored.  In 1932, 1933, and 1934, she was a finalist at the fledgling Houston Invitation Tennis Tournament which became the River Oaks Invitational Tennis Tournament—now the USTA Clay Court Championships.  Upon moving permanently to Houston in 1937, she was the first teaching tennis professional at both Houston Country Club and River Oaks Country Club, starting active junior programs at each.  


1931 and 1932  - Coach D.A. Penick celebrates a Tennis Conference Championship

 two new on Campus gyms are completed

1931 – Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned women from professional baseball in America. He felt that he needed to after a seventeen-year-old pitcher Virne Beatrice “Jackie” Mitchell stroked out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in an exhibition game.

Gregory Gym for men and Women's gym are completed. Anna's physical training department is  moved to the College of Arts and Sciences and the U.T.S.A. (University of Texas Sports Association) is formed .

The Women's Gymnasium was built during the depression to support the physical well being of up to 3500 women  Hiss played a crucial component in planning its construction having traveled around the country to examine existing gymnasiums. Women's Gym was completed for $400,000 and the facility included squash, handball, and basketball courts, dance studios, an archery range, a large swimming pool, and faculty offices. Hiss intentionally built undersized basketball courts to discourage spectators from watching, and positioned the baskets directly on the wall to keep athletes from playing out of control.   The  Women's Gymnasium is "Considered one of Anna Hiss's lasting achievements and a model facility during its day". 


The  Women's Gymnasium is "Considered one of Anna Hiss's lasting achievements and a model facility during its day".  There were lounges, club rooms, a regulation swimming pool, dancing studions , five gym, a library, wenty offices, golf cages, and practice tennis courts, .  It was one of the best facilities in the country.




Daniel Allen Penick,a distant cousin to Harvey Penick, is the first official Women's  Tennis Coach at Texas.  







Top of the charts







1933- 1935 is A significant year in the history of UT women's sports



In 1933 Anna Hiss convinces the Board of Regents to add a dues paying women's club sports program to the College of Physical activities. The sports include:

  • Texas Turtles-Swimming

  • Racquet Club-Tennis

  • Tee-golf club started in 1929

  • Archery

  • Touche- fencing

  • Poona- badminton

  • Strike and Spare- bowling


  • tumbling

  • Triggerettte- riflery

  • Canter- riding

Turtle club - formed in 1920 and is the oldest and largest club.  





In addition the women sports programs also include baseball, track, basketball, long distance hiking, rowing, and horseback riding.

Tessa Nichols states in her thesis that Hiss "stepped out in a new direction that had not been previously tested at other universities."  The reason for the change is to "create more opportunity for advanced skill development in a "club" environment. While Hiss supported the Sports Club format, her lack of record keeping for the Club's speaks volumes of her innate beliefs stated by Tessa Nichols that "serious female athletes were still a highly transgressive concept nationwide".  For this reason Anna Hiss chooses not to record the history of skilled members of the "club" format.  This decision deprives the University of Texas an opportunity to  celebrate great women Longhorn athletes from this era. Their unrecorded stories have created a major void in the history of women's sports at the University of Texas.

The addition of Sports Club results in a necessary split from UT Austin intramurals.  Longhorns Woman's intramurals continues to develop an organizational structure based on competition between , sororities, dormitories, independent groups , and awards and honors were presented at the "T" banquet.



Women's intramurals includes tennis, deck tennis, ping pong, archery, golf, swimming, baseball, basketball, and hockey.  Form 1931 - 1935 the number of participants has grown 10 fold for a total of 3000 women entering tournament play. The bulk of the participants comes from sororities,  dormitories, and independent groups .   Awards for winning  were distributed at a "T-night banquet in May.




In 1936 Tex Robertson raises money for the UT men's swim team travelling the state of Texas (no women's team in 1936) by charging admission to see a travelling aquatic show and a beauty pageant contest. 



Tessa Nichols states in her thesis that "physical educators" abhorred the emergence of women city and industrial sports leagues  because   " they were run by men, emphasized intense competition....., and were produced for economic profit."  Cahn says  "They" (physical educators) "classified " the industrial and city leagues - composed  of   ".... working class, rural, and black youth-club, industrial, and semiprofessional athletics - as unladylike and unnatural for women".  Hiss's definition of lady like in female sports champions the "middle class" not the formation of industrial and city leagues. 

Hiss publishes an article titled  Girls Basketball Leagues; What About Them -and Our Responsibilities.   According to Tessa Nichols, Hiss wants to reshape the women city and industrial leagues to conform to the Universities definition of women sports.  Hiss "urged her colleagues to pursue involvement and opportunities of affiliation that would enable us to assist in these league tournaments". Hiss's goal is to "infuse leagues  with optimal standards", and "minimize exploitation of women by men".  




Incredibly, Hiss decides to add a "posture" contest to the portfolio of women sports.





 1937 Betty Jameson enters UT and Harvey Penick gives her golf instruction.  Betty is the first women to every qualify for a men's varsity high school golf team in the state of Texas. In 1938 Betty Jameson wins the intramural golf championship at Texas.




 Jane Dillard trains with Tex Robertson and sets the American and world records in the 100 breaststroke. 




Basketball champs

Basketball champs

1940's- Recreational programs continue to expand . Intramural champions are crowned in multiple sports, and the Women's program offers offers a variety of club teams. 

1943 - Women's professional baseball replaced mens professional baseball during the war


Betsy Rawls is a freshman at Texas and studies physics. Harvey Penick molds her into one of the greatest golfers of all time. Betsy loved Harvey.  She said "his interest in students for their own sake rather than for the sake of his own reflected glory" won her over. Thru the years Betsy refers many other women golfers to Harvey .


 Jane Patterson  is a pioneer in women’s aquatics and is the first Texas female to wear a tank suit. Undefeated from 1947-1955, she held every major state record when she retired. 

Jane is  inducted into the Texas Swimming Hall of Fame for her contributions to the sport as a swimmer, coach, and supporter of swimming in Texas. 



Professor Hiss is awarded a honorary doctorate from Boston University.

Betty Jameson and three other women form the LPGA.  Betty is in the first induction class to the LPGA Hall of Fame.



Top of the Charts 1949



The high school physical education association decided to  get involved with women's basketball by supervising the competitive activity.  Rules were established for women's basketball and a playoff system organized and sponsored for Class A and Class B high school.