March, Basketball and Smith

Our Pioneer basketball team had a good season this year–capturing their first ECAC championship, beating their opponent after coming back from a 16 point deficit.  Women’s basketball and Smith go hand-in-hand together, ever since 1893, when the Director of Gymnastics, Senda Berenson watched a YMCA basketball game in Springfield, MA and decided that Smith women could play that game just as well.

Senda Berenson in front of Alumnae Gymnasium

Berenson brought the game back to Alumnae Gymnasium, chose women from various classes (seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshman) and started them practicing.  The energy of the women who participated in these practices was contagious.  Lines of students would form at the doors of Alumnae Gymnasium to see a game, and snake around Washburn and Hubbard House, as in this 1895 image.

Students waiting in line for the doors to open for a basketball game.

Josephine Dodge Daskam, Class of 1898, describes the tenor and temperament of a game in her short story “The Emotions of a Sub-Guard” part of her book Smith College Stories (published by Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1900).  Check it out for yourself.  In the meantime, basketball continues to hold sway over the students during the winter months.  While no longer the painfully slow game that it was in the 1890s (the first game ended with in a 5-4 win by the sophomores), the energy, creativity, and complete passion that Berenson, the teams of the Class of 1895 and 1896, and the majority of Smith women generated and endorsed at that first game on March 22, 1893 remains today.

Watch an award-winning video about the early days of Smith’s basketball legacy at:




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