Did We Say That? The Dangers of Women Playing Basketball

A 1903 Post editorial warns that allowing girls to play sports will lead to the ruin of feminine character.

The development of a fondness for athletics among girls has been a noteworthy feature of life in this country during the last decade, and it is not strange that it should be attended by manifestations of misdirected energy and bad taste. From anxious mothers, from teachers, and from physicians earnest protests are being made against the tendency to encourage girls to think that they are just as well adapted to the athletic life as boys are.

As to the adaptability of girls to physical exercise, there is something to say on both sides, but the weightier opinion on the part of physicians seems to be that the girl is so different from the boy in temperament and constitution that though a moderate amount of exercise of the right kind and under the right conditions is immensely beneficial, excessive training, overexertion, and the influences of publicity are detrimental to her physical and mental well-being.

All this ought to be sufficiently obvious to any intelligent person who stops to reason about the matter. The trouble is that when athletics for girls became the fashion the majority of parents did not stop to reason about it, but allowed their daughters to do as the other girls did; and there were always enough girls of independent ideas to take the lead and set an example that the others were only too ready to follow.

A reaction against this state of things was sure to come, however, and it has already begun. Even basketball — a game supposed to be particularly suited to girls — has come under the ban. Miss Lucille Eaton Hill, director of physical training in Wellesley College, is convinced that competitive athletic contests for young girls, and especially interscholastic basketball matches, are exceedingly injurious to the players physically, and tend to “a general lowering of the standards of womanly reticence and refinement.” Miss Hill has been studying the conditions of athletics for girls in some of the New England schools, and she finds a great deal to condemn. In one school the girls had formed an association and were training themselves in running and jumping with the aid of boy coaches and without supervision by the school authorities.

The moral of all this is that if parents desire their daughters to be given the right sort of physical training to fit them for lives of usefulness and honor, they must see that the task is entrusted to competent instructors.

—“Athletics for Girls,” Editorial, November 21, 1903