WOMEN AND SPORT IN THE TWENTIES AND THIRTIES
Pendant les anne'es 20 et 30 au time, so we just thought, 'what do ability and her obvious relish for Canada, les femmes commenc2rent h we care about what you think . . . competition were labelled tomboy- pratiquer les sports d'e'quipe, surtout we want to play, we'll play!' " In ish, she perceived these as advan- la balle-molle et le ballon-panier: another sense, the lives of these tages in terms of friendship, since toutefois, des barri6res a leur women are representative of many they allowed her to enjoy a cama- participation compl&tedans le of their female contemporaries - raderie with the boys and men in her domaine du sport existaient encore. athletes whose achievements re- family and neighbourhood that was L'engagement de quelques femmes main unrecorded in a literature unusual for a girl in those days. dans le monde des sports, domine' par which still retains much of its early "Anything the boys could do, I les hommes, fut ne'anmoins preoccupation with male-domi- could do, too, and do it as well as exceptionnel. Cet article fait revivre nated, professional sport. they could . . . I didn't feel any dif- les activite's de trois de ces femmes: Doris Butwell Craig was born in ferent." Remembering ice hockey Doris Butwell Craig, Gladys Gigg 1908 in the Humber Bay area of games on the Humber River, she Ross, et Hilda Thomas Smith. Toronto. One of four children, she said, "They knocked me down just had a sister, Laura, who was four- the same as they knocked each teen years her senior, and two other down . . . that didn't bother The twenties and thirties have brothers close to her own age. me." The idea of contact sports, been called, by some historians, the Doris attended Humber Bay Public however, did bother Laura, who did "Golden Age" of women's sports in Scnool and Central Commerce. not share Doris's love of games like Canada. Others have written his- After completing high school, she basketball and softball. "All that , tories of sport and physical activity did secretarial work until her mar- roughness, people sliding into you as if women were either invisible riage in 1932. and hurting your shins" - this was or incapable of participating - Doris was labelled a tomboy by not Laura's idea of fun. Doris at- except perhaps as spectators. It is family members from a young age. tributed this to personality and age , true that there was a remarkable Quite early in life, she discovered differences, noting that Laura did growth of interest in women's team that climbing to the top of "a great not have the advantage of growing sports, especially softball and bas- big tree" in the backyard was an up in the flapper era - the "crazy ketball, at thistime, but barriers still effective way to avoid doing the twenties"; Laura was a wife and existed to women's participation. In dishes. Other escapades included mother by this time. many respects, the experiences of scaling a windmill and hopping a Doris began playing softball when Doris Butwell Craig, Gladys Gigg freight train for a mile or so. Fam- she was about twelve. Her brother's Ross, and Hilda Thomas Smith were ily reaction curbed some but not all novel training method was obvious- exceptional. As Gladys explained, of Doris's adventures. Reflecting on ly a key factor: "He stood me in "We were into sports which the tomboy label, Doris said, "I am front of double garage doors that weren't common for girls at that and I'm not." While her athletic were mostly glass and he would
VOLUME 4, NUMBER 3, SPRING 1983 15 say, 'you can't miss it now, you achievement." Her other sporting DORIS know!' and I didn't miss it! 1~never successes at school included a gold missed it! We never broke a glass medal in the Ontario high schools' BUT WELL on that door." These sessions, Doris competition for standing broad claims, taught her to concentrate - jump. For a short time, too, Doris CRAiG'S "thinking down to her fingers," in was coached in diving by Olympic her words - and she attributed her swimming coach Ab Shilcock, until NHLEPIC subsequent success as "a pretty a back injury curtailed her training good hitter" to co-ordination and in this area. agility. Doris first played basketball for During her school years Doris the Lakeside Athletic Club in the played in interschool basketball 1924-25 season. The club was spon- OBVIOUS competition. As a participant in re- sored by Silverwood Dairies, with gional tournaments, she travelled the company providing uniforms RELISH all over Ontario and recalled that and equipment. In the days before the level of play in this team was the diamond was enclosed with a FOR more demanding. "You really had fence, the practice was to "pass the to play . . . we played boys' rules hat" at games; later, admission was GOMPETllTlOM . . . and I can remember mother charged. It was at the games that counting over one hundred bruises Doris received several job offers, WERE on me!" Doris viewed the intro- presumably from employers who duction of men's rules and the inter- saw publicity opportunities in hav- ADVANfAGES est taken by male coaches as "a ing a secretary who was a public breakthrough" in girls' team sports figure. Newspaper coverage of in the twenties. She explained her women's sports did, in fact, make PM PERMS position in terms of commitment to Doris and her teammates public fig- the game. While acknowledging ures; columns written by former OF that there was, of course, a place for athletes Alexandrine Gibb and recreational sports in women's Phyllis Griffiths appeared regularly FRIENDSHIP lives, she believed that good ath- in two Toronto newspapers at this letes needed the opportunity for se- time, and a third, written by rious training and competition and Bobbie Rosenfeld, appeared in the should not be limited by the 1930s. One offer impressed Doris "girls1-rules" mentality. Critics at more than all the others: the chance this time, however, were agonizing to play softball for a Chicago team, over the alleged "masculinizing" for $60 per week. At the time, Doris effects of serious competitive sports earned $16 per week as a secretary, on the bodies and the personalities and her status in softball was strict- of young women. These critics ly amateur. Yet she didn't even dis- emphasized the dangers of men's cuss the offer with her family. "No, rules and the risks to female players you just didn't do that," she ex- when men, who did not understand plained. women's "peculiar physiology," Gladys Gigg Ross grew up in acted as their managers and North Bay, one of a family of ten coaches. Little of this opposition ap- children. A childhood incident served pears to have affected players like to bring her athletic ability to Doris, who viewed men's role in the attention of Claude Kewley, a women's team sports as a positive sports writer who also coached trend. girls' track and field. Kewley hap- Apart from the basketball pro- pened to notice the nine-year-old gram, the physical education of- Gladys running down the street, fered by the school system did not pursued by her sixteen-year-old leave much impression on Doris. brother, and was impressed with She remarked of the gym exercises, her remarkable speed. In the fol- "I used to just walk through those lowing years, Gladys developed an things." Similarly, the contest often impressive record as an all-round recommended for girls - throwing athlete, scoring the most points in the ball for distance - posed no high-school field-day events for four particular challenge to a softball years as well as playing basketball player: "I could always throw the and softball. ball the farthest. I always won that. A 1933 newspaper report of the I didn't think that was any great North Bay collegiate field-day pro-
ANADIAN WOMAN S'I'IJI)IESIl,ES CAHIERS DE LA FEMME gram showed interesting differ- when the first British Empire was appointed northern convener ences between boys' and girls' Games were held in Hamilton, On- of the Women's Amateur Athletic events. The longest race for girls tario, four girls, including Gladys, Federation (WAAF),Ontario was 65 yards, compared to 880 were ready to compete. This was branch. At this time, too she was yards for boys. Throwing events for at the time when there was a move- writing a sports column in the girls were limited to the baseball and ment among American and some North Bay Nugget - "In the Fem- basketball throw (for distance), Canadian women to eliminate inine Realm of Sport. " She played whereas boys had javelin and shot- competition from all levels of girls' softball until 1944 and continued in put events. Gladys's best perform- and women's sports, on the grounds executive roles for many years ances were in sprints and high that females were not physically after. It was in 1953, when Gladys jump. Her introduction to jumping and emotionally capable of coping assumed the presidency of the pro- came about when Ethel Cather- with the strain and excitement. vincial Women's Softball Union, wood, the 1928 Olympic gold med- Other concerns included women that it became, as Bobbie Rosenfeld alist, was competing in North Bay, playing during menstruation and expressed it in her column, "not and Kewley urged Gladys to jump the unsuitability of male coaches for only a government for the women, with Ethel. Her first attempts were girls' and women's teams. Gladys's but by the women as well." For the hampered by long gym bloomers, experiences suggest that, without first time in its twenty-two-year but a switch to her brother's shorts male coaches, opportunities for history, the positions of advisors, produced considerable improve- North Bay girls would have been traditionally held by men, were ment. She continued to practise at minimal. She did recall, however, filled by women. home daily in summer and a few that the menstruation issue some- Hilda Thomas Smith, like Doris, times weekly throughout the win- times arose. Male coaches was growing up in Toronto during ter, using high-jump stands which "wouldn't ask you right out, of the 1920s, a time when women's her father had made. At a time course, and if they did in those team sports were thriving. Her in- when coaching for girls was not days, we probably wouldn't know terest in sport began as a student at particularly systematic or rigorous, what the word meant!" Their in- Oakwood Collegiate and as a mem- Gladys's self-motivation was ob- direct approach was to ask, "How ber of the Essex Playground softball viously an important factor in her are you today?" or "Do you want team. Her brothers did not share success. to practise today?" her sporting interests and her Gladys played on the collegiate In spite of the competition contro- family rarely watched her play, but basketball team, which was coached versy, the 1930 games offered track obviously enjoyment of the game by the girls' physical-training teach- and field, swimming, and diving for was the most important factor for er, but she was not very enthusias- women. Track and field included Hilda. On occasions when some- tic about "P.T." classes, which of- 60-metre, 100-metre, and 200-metre one expressed disapproval, her re- fered little more than wand drills races, 4-X-100-metrerelay, hurdles, sponse was, "That's their business. and folk dancing. Her sporting ac- discus, javelin, running high jump, I'm doing what I want to do!" tivities, however, extended outside running broad jump, and the inevi- In the early 1920s, Hilda joined school. The CPR sponsored a table baseball throw. Controversy the Atheneum Ladies' Athletic girls' basketball team, in which over the so-called "gruelling" 800- Club, which was sponsored by the both Gladys and her younger sister metre distance for women, Atheneum Bowling Alley. This club Bernice participated. Unlike school following the 1928 Olympics, was was taken over by the Lakeside basketball, the "Ceepees" played responsible for the omission of this Ladies' Athletic Club in 1925, and so by boys' rules and occasionally race from the British Empire Games Hilda and Doris became teammates played against boys' teams, with and subsequent Olympics until around this time. Like Doris, Hilda several impressive successes. Girls' 1960. Gladys won medals for high played softball for the Lakesides in participation, however, was not jump, broad jump, and running; a summer and basketball in winter. without its restrictions. On one oc- few years later, in the 1932 Olympic The team achieved front-page casion when the team appeared on trials, she missed out on first place coverage in the Evening Telegram in the main street on Sunday morning in the running broad jump by one- 1928, when they held a fifteen-point in their CPR shirts and shorts, quarter of an inch. lead in the city intermediate basket- having missed the Saturday night Softball was Gladys's major sport- ball championship. Other important train, the CPR superintendent ing interest for over thirty years. events in Hilda's sporting career warned them not to repeat this kind There were few school teams when included being the first player to hit of public display - shorts were con- she was young, but women's soft- a ball in the first softball game un- sidered appropriate only at the ball clubs, sponsored by business or der floodlights, held in Toronto in game. industry, were flourishing through- 1930. On one of the team's frequent Outside of school, a small group out Ontario. At the age of twelve out-of-town trips, Hilda travelled to of North Bay girls, including Gladys joined the Senators' team in North Bay, where she met another Gladys, trained in track and field, North Bay and became its secretary. softball and basketball enthusiast, first with Claude Kewley and later At fourteen she was secretary of the Gladys Gigg Ross. with Leo Troy, who taught boys' Northern Ontario Women's Softball All of Lakeside's executive mem- P.T. at the high school. By 1930, Association, and a few years later bers were women; coaches and
VOLUME 4, NUMBER 3, SPRING 1983 managers were male, and both men Newspaper reports on "girl ath- THERE WERE and women served as directors and letes'' (withthe exception of wom- patrons. The position of "Directress en's sports columns) commonly FREQUENT of Athletics" was held by Bobbie noted their physical attractiveness Rosenfeld, whose outstanding ath- as well as their athletic competence, WARNINGS letic achievements encompassed but did not, for the most dis- track and field, softball, and basket- play the preoccupation with sexual N ball. Specialization was relatively allure and sexual orientation that rare among either male or female characterizes much of the contem- THE PRESS athletes at this time. The weather porary media coverage. It was, of and availability of facilities appeared course, unusual for journalists to to dictate, to some extent, what make explicit reference to sexual THAT SPORT games would be played. Warming matters in the 1920s and 1930s, but up and conditioning were virtually Elmer Ferguson, writing in Mac- WOULD unknown, according to Hilda: "You lean's Magazine in 1938, was not in- never even stretched your arms or hibited by these conventions. He "MASCULIN- bent your knees." Players would described a leading sprinter as "a practise just before the game, and big, lanky, flat-chested muscular IZE" WOMEN. the common pattern of playing for girl with as much sex appeal as church teams ("fun games") as well grandmother's old sewing ma- as for school teams and athletic chine." Men, he claimed, "want the clubs may have compensated for gals to stay beautiful, graceful and lack of formal practice. sightly, not tie their bodies in Like Gladys, Hilda made an im- scrawny, sinewy knots." Similar pressive contribution to the organ- sentiments, expressed somewhat ization of women's sports; she was differently, had been appearing in treasurer of the Atheneums, the the press since the 1890s, when Lakesides, and the Olympic Ladies' women began cycling and playing Softball League; secretary and later games like golf or tennis. There treasurer of the Provincial Wom- were frequent warnings, too, that en's Softball Union; and treasurer sport would "masculinize" women, of the WAAF from 1932 to the if indeed female athletes were not 1950s. As well, she served in a va- already "masculine" at the outset. riety of officiating roles in track-and- Medical arguments were often used field events, including the function to reinforce what were essentially of "assistant clerk of the course" at expressions of male supremacy. In a the Toronto Police Track and Field society where men comprised the Championships in 1934. The letter dominant group economically and requesting her presence at the po- politically, the power of the male lice games (withthe "Dear Sir" cor- "experts" to dictate what were safe rected to read "Dear Hilda") had and legitimate uses of the body was this explanatory postscript: "We are rarely questioned. It was theHtaken- putting on a senior and junior relay for-granted" nature of male-imposed for the fair sex and your services definitions and restrictions that en- will be much appreciated particu- sured their effectiveness - "You larly around the dressing room iust didn't do that." where the stalwart policemen dare In the face of opposition, how- not go." Except for Mrs. Branston, ever, many women persisted, hav- Lakeside's nurse, who was listed as ing discovered the health benefits "chaperone," Hilda was the only of sport, the fun and companion- female official. Her brother-in-law, ship, the satisfaction of playing Irving Smith, was the athletic di- well, and, perhaps most important- rector of the police force and a suc- ly, the sheer pleasure of physical cessful runner. It was Irving Smith effort. Doris Butwell Craig, Gladys who organized the first beauty con- Gigg Ross, and Hilda Thomas Smith test at the Canadian National Exhi- represented such women. bition in 1937. At that time sport, both men's and women's, was an Helen Lenskyj has recently completed integral part of the exhibition's pro- a dissertation at the Ontario Institute gram. But the advent of the beauty for Studies in Education on the history contest signified ambivalent views ofgirls' sport and physical activity in of women's bodies. Ontario.
18 CANADIAN WOMAN STUDlESiLES CAHIERS DE LA FEMME