Timeline of women's sports
This is a timeline of women's sports, spanning from ancient history up to the 21st century. It includes both competitive sports and notable physical feats.
2134–2000 BCE – Illustrations on Egyptian temple walls from the Eleventh Dynasty showed women exercising and playing ball games.
2nd century CE – Contemporary writers and historians described female gladiators fighting in Rome.
1296 – At a Christmas feast for Edward I of England, an acrobat named either Maud or Matilda Makejoy performed acrobatic feats as part of the entertainment.
Pre-Columbian era – In the Americas, women from many indigenous tribes participated in sports such as foot races, swimming, stick and ball games, and wrestling contests. Starting in the 16th century, however, European settlers and colonial influence gradually began limiting athletic opportunities for indigenous women, particularly as Europeans tried to forcibly assimilate indigenous people into Western culture.
1722 – English champion boxer Elizabeth Wilkinson won her first public bout, after challenging a local woman to a fight.
1745 – The first recorded women's cricket match took place in Surrey, England. By the second half of the eighteenth century, women's cricket matches played between local teams became common in the South East of England.
1768 – A French woman named Madame Bunel played a highly publicized tennis match against the English Mr. Tomkins. After three sets, she defeated him 2–1, subsequently winning again in a rematch 11 days later.
1781 – As archery became a popular sport for aristocracy in England, upper-class women and men competed in archery contests and created archery societies such as the Toxophilite Society.
1784 – Elizabeth Thible of France was the first women to fly in a hot air ballon.
1790s – An annual women's association football competition was held in Mid-Lothian, Scotland.
1811 – The first women's golf tournament is held at the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club, Scotland.
1816 – French tightrope walker Madame Saqui performed in England to celebrate the opening of Vauxhall Bridge. After ascending a 300-ft inclined rope to the top of a tower, she completed one of her signature tricks, running back down along the rope while fireworks exploded in the background.
1819 – In a New York City exhibition, a Mrs. Adolphe became the first woman to publicly walk on a tightrope.
1825 – Madame Johnson ascended from New York in a hot air balloon in New York, later landing in a swamp in the neighboring state of New Jersey.
1856 – The Swedish swimmer and bath house director Nancy Edberg arranged her first public Swimming exhibitions with female swimmers.
1858 – On August 5th, the American Julia Archibald Holmes became the first woman to climb to the summit of Pike's Peak in Colorado.
1863 – Association football governing bodies introduced standardized rules to prohibit violence on the pitch, making it more socially acceptable for women to play.
1866 – Two baseball teams with female players were formed at Vassar College in New York.
1874 – Tennis was introduced to the United States by Mary Ewing Outerbridge of Staten Island. She brought the needed equipment to the United States from Bermuda and set up the first American court at Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club..
1876 – In the first women's boxing match held in the United States, Nell Saunders defeated Rose Harland. Her prize was a silver butter dish.
1882 – The YWCA of Boston sponsored the first ever athletic games for women.
1893 – Newnham College Boat Club was formed in Cambridge, England.
1893 – The Ladies' Golf Union, the governing body for women's and girls' amateur golf in Great Britain and Ireland, was founded in St Andrews, Scotland and the first British Ladies Amateur Golf Championship was won by Lady Margaret Scott at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club.
1894 – The first golf tournament for women in the United States was won by Hollard A. Ford. Held on a 7-hole course in Morristown, New Jersey, Ford easily won with a score of 97 on the double-7. She was 14 strokes under the 2nd place golfer.
1895 – At the Meadow Brook Club in Hempstead, New York, 13 women competed in the first women's amateur golf championship in the United States. Mrs. Charles S. Brown won the tournament with a score of 132 and Nellie Sargent came in second place.
1895 – A group of "nimble, supple and vivacious girls" competed in what is considered the first organized athletics meeting in the United States. Hosted by Vassar College and known as a "Field Day," there were running and jumping events.
1896 – A six day bicycle race for women, the first of its kind, began at New York City's Madison Square Garden on January 6th.
1896 – Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley faced off on April 4th in the first women's intercollegiate basketball championship before a crowd of 700 women. Stanford won, 2–1.
1897 – Adine Masson, of France, became the first winner of the ladies singles at the French Open.
1900 – The 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris introduces women's events, offering golf, tennis, and croquet. Hélène de Pourtalès of Switzerland was the first woman to win a gold medal as part of a mixed sailing crew. Charlotte Cooper of Great Britain becomes the first individual female winner in an Olympic event. American Margaret Abbott won a gold medal in golf.
1901 – The game of field hockey was introduced to the United States by Constance M.K. at Harvard University.
1905 – The Camogie Association is founded in Dublin, Ireland to organise and promote the women's sport of camogie in Ireland and across the world.
1909 – Alice Huyler Ramsey became the first woman to drive across the United States, her home country.
1911 – Having inherited the St. Louis Cardinals from her father in 1911, Helene Britton became the first woman to own a major league baseball team. She was the head director of the Cardinals until 1917.
1912 – Fanny Durack, from Australia, became the first female Olympic swimming champion at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, when she won the women's 100 m freestyle event. Compatriot, Mina Wylie finished second, becoming the first female swimming silver medallist. This was also the first olympics to include women's diving.
1917 – Women's association football became popular on a large scale in the United Kingdom during the First World War, when employment in heavy industry spurred the growth of the game, much as it had done for men fifty years earlier. A team from England played a team from Ireland on Boxing Day 1917 in front of a crowd of 20,000 spectators. The following year, a knock-out competition called the Munitionettes Cup was held which attracted 30 teams. The final was played in front of a crowd of 22,000.
1918 – Marie-Louise Ledru, a French athlete, has been credited as the first woman to race the now-defined marathon distance of 42.195 km. On September 29, 1918, Ledru reportedly completed the Tour de Paris Marathon in a time of 5 hours and 40 minutes and finished in 38th place. The International Association of Athletics Federations, the international governing body for the sport of athletics, however, recognizes Violet Piercy from England as having set the first women's world best in the marathon on October 3, 1926 with a time of 3:40:22.
1919 – Afghanistan became independent from British control and began working to "modernize the country" by introducing new sports and physical fitness opportunities for girls and women. Basketball and volleyball teams were created in all girls' high schools.
1920 – Dick, Kerr's Ladies association football team played in the first women's international matches in 1920, against a team from Paris, France, and also made up most of the England team against a Scottish Ladies XI in the same year, winning 22–0.
1920 – The All-Philadelphia team, the first American women's field hockey team, was denied entry to the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. They played, however,in an English tournament but did not win either game.
1921 – The 1921 Women's Olympiad, held in Monaco, was the first international women's sports event.
1921 – Following the Football Association ban on women's teams on 5 December, the English Ladies' Football Association was formed. A total of 24 teams entered the first competition in the spring of 1922.
1922 – 1922 Women's Olympiad, held in Monaco.
1923 – 1923 Women's Olympiad, held in Monaco.
1923 – First British track and field Championships Championships, followed shortly thereafter by the first American track and field Championships.
1926 – Violet Piercy, an English long-distance runner, was recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations as having set the first women's world best in the marathon on 3 October with a time of 3:40:22. Piercy was reported to have run unofficially, and her mark was set on the Polytechnic Marathon course between Windsor and London.
1927 – Women's Eights Head of the River Races began in London, England, one year after the first men's race.
1928 – Women competed in the Olympic games for the first time at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
1931 – Women were banned from playing professional baseball by Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. Landis was upset that a girl, 17-year-old Jackie Mitchell, had struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig during exhibition play.
1932 – The first All-Ireland Senior Camogie Championship is won by Dublin
1932 – Brazilian swimmer Maria Lenk became the first South American woman to participate in the Olympic Games, competing in events for breaststroke, freestyle, and backstroke. She went on to break two world records in breaststroke events.
1932 – The Associated Press named American Babe Didrikson as the Woman Athlete of the Year for track and field. Didrickson had earlier driven her team to the Amateur Athletic Union national meet championship. She scored thirty points by herself at the meet. The whole second place team collectively only scored 22.
1934 – The inaugural international Women's Test cricket match took place between the England national women's cricket team and the Australia national women's cricket team in December. The following year, the New Zealand national women's cricket team played them.
1936 – The first professional basketball team for women, the All American Red Heads Team, was formed. It was a barnstorming troupe.
1936 – The first American to win a world singles table tennis championship was a woman, Ruth Hughes Aarons.
1937 – Grace Hudowalski was the ninth person and first woman to climb all 46 of the Adirondack High Peaks.
1937 – The first association football "Championship of Great Britain and the World" was played between Dick, Kerr's Ladies F.C. and Edinburgh City Girls.
1949 – Marcenia Lyle Alberga was the first woman to play a full season of professional baseball.
1949 – Sara Christian became the first female NASCAR driver, racing in the inaugural race at Charlotte Speedway, even though she had Bob Flock finish the race. In the second official race at Daytona Beach and Road Course, also in 1949, Christian was joined by Ethel Mobley and Louise Smith, with Mobley finishing ahead of the 3, at 11th.
1949 – The inaugural women's Volleyball World Championship is held in the Soviet Union, three years after the inaugural men's event. It becomes the oldest and most important of all the international volleyball events organised by the FIVB.
1950 – There not being a rule against it, 12-year-old Kathryn Johnston of Corning, New York became the first girl to play Little League Baseball. Johnson played first base for the King's Dairy team. After that, a rule prohibited girls from playing in Little League; this was in force until 1974.
1953 – The first international women's basketball championship is held, including teams (in order of final standing) from the US, Chile, France, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Switzerland, Paraguay and Cuba.
1953 – Toni Stone, also known by her married name Marcenia Lyle Alberga, was the first of three women to play Negro league baseball, and thus the first woman to play as a regular on an American big-eague professional baseball team.
1954 – The first international women's rowing races were introduced at the European Rowing Championships.
1955 – The Ladies Professional Golf Association held their first championship.
1965 – Australia beat the United States in the final game of the first international women's softball tournament, 1-0. The tournament was held in Melbourne, Australia.
1969 – The English Women's Football Association was formed.
1967 – The American Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon as a numbered entry.
1969 – Barbara Jo Rubin became the first female jockey to win a race in the United States.
1971 – The Football Association's ban on women's matches being played on members' grounds was lifted. In the same year, UEFA recommended that the women's game should be taken under the control of the national associations in each country.
1971 – Cheryl White, an American, became the first black female jockey.
1971 – The Amateur Athletic Union ruled that "certain women" could take part in marathons, provided they either started their race 10 minutes before or after the men or on a different starting line. The different starting line requirement was dropped in 1972.
1973 – Billie Jean King won the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match against Bobby Riggs in America.
1973 – The US Open was the first Grand Slam tournament to offer equal prize money.
1973 – Terry Williams Munz became the first woman in America awarded an athletic scholarship when she accepted a golf scholarship from the University of Miami.
1974 – Angela Hernandez (also known as Angela Hernandez Gomez and just Angela), of Spain, won a case in the Spanish Supreme Court allowing women to be bullfighters in Spain; a prohibition against women doing so was put in place in Spain in 1908.
1974 – The Women's Sports Foundation was created by Billie Jean King in America. 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."
1974 – The Portland Mavericks hired Lanny Moss to manage the team. She was the first woman to serve as skipper for a professional men's baseball team.
1974 – Girls were formally permitted to play in the Little League Baseball program as result of a lawsuit brought on behalf of Frances Pescatore and Jenny Fulle.
1975 – Junko Tabei of Japan became the first woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
1976 – Nadia Comăneci, at the time a 15-year-old Romanian gymnast, won three Olympic gold medals at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada, and was the first gymnast to be awarded a perfect score of 10 in an Olympic gymnastic event.
1980 – American Mary Decker became the first woman to run a sub-4:30 mile.
1982 – Kathy Rude became the first woman to win a professional road race in the United States when she won her class at the 24 Hours of Daytona and later became the first woman to set a lap record at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
1982 – The National Collegiate Athletic Association began sponsoring women's basketball.
1984 – The first Olympic marathon for women was held in Los Angeles. American Joan Benoit won.
1985 – The distance for Women's rowing in the Olympic Games programme was extended to 2000 metres, the distance raced at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and thereafter, consistent with men's rowing events at the Olympics.
1985 – The United States national soccer team was formed.
1986 – The American Ann Bancroft was the first woman to reach the North Pole by foot and dogsled, and "...she became the first known woman to cross the ice to the North Pole."
1987 – Tania Aebi completed a solo circumnavigation of the globe in a 26-foot sailboat between the ages of 18 and 21, making her the first American woman to sail around the world.
1987 – The [American] National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) is an annual day of observance held during the first week of February to acknowledge the accomplishments of female athletes, recognize the influence of sports participation for women and girls, and honor the progress and continuing struggle for equality for women in sports.
1988 – The first Henley Women's Regatta took place at Henley-on-Thames in England.
1989 – Arantxa Sanchez beat Setffi Graf to win the Grand Slam. At only 17 years old she became the first Spanish woman to do so.
1991 – Algerian middle-distance runner Hassiba Boulmerka became the first African woman to win a world championship in track and field. She won the 1500-meter race.
1991 – The United States won FIFA's first ever Women's World Cup.
1992 – Major League Baseball lifted the ban on the signing of women to contracts, a ban that had existed since 1952.
1992 – Manon Rheaume signed a contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning of the NHL, appearing in preseason exhibition games in 1992 and 1993. She spent 5 years in professional minor leagues, playing for a total of seven teams and appearing in 24 games. She also played on the Canada's Women's Ice Hockey Team, winning gold medals at the IIHF Women's World Championship in 1992 and 1994, and the silver medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
1993 – The San Francisco Giants hired Sherry Davies as their public address announcer. She was the first woman in this position in all of major league baseball.
1993 – USA Boxing officially lifted its ban on women's boxing in 1993.
1996 – The first Asian conference on women and sports took place in Manila, the Philippines. Approximately 150 participants from more than 12 Asian nations attended the conference, and discussions culminated in the Manila Declaration on Women and Sport, which declared support for women in sports.
1996 – Women's soccer and women's softball became medal sports at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta for the first time; both events were won by US teams.
1997 – The WNBA began in America.
1999 – Carolina Morace signed a two year contract as the coach of Unione Sportiva Viterbese 1908, becoming the first woman to coach an Italian men's professional soccer team.
1999 – Tori Murden became the first woman and the first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
2000 – German Sandra Farmand won the World Cup snowboard women's cross race.
2000 – The Aggressive Skaters Association created the so-called "Fabiola Rule", after Fabiola da Silva, which allowed women to compete in the formerly all-male vert competition.
2005 – The New York City Marathon awarded the female champion $130,000, compared to just $100,000 for the male winner. It is thought to be the first time a sporting event paid the female winner more than it paid to the male. Additionally, it was the largest prize ever awarded at a marathon.
2006 – Julie Wafaei of Canada became the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean from mainland to mainland in March.
2008 – The American Danica Patrick was the first woman to win an IndyCar Series by winning the 2008 Indy Japan 300.
2009 – Sarah Outen, from Britain, became the first woman to row alone across the Indian Ocean.
2010 – Roz Savage, from England, became the first woman to row solo across the Pacific Ocean.
2010 – The American Kelly Kulick won the 2010 PBA Tournament of Champions, where she was the first-ever female competitor in the field. This also made her the first woman to win any Professional Bowlers Association Tour event that was also open to men.
2012 – The 2012 Summer Olympics in London were the first Games in which women competed in all sports in the program, and every participating country included female athletes. The U.S. Olympic team had more women than men for the first time — 269 female athletes to 261 men.
2012 – Felicity Aston, of Britain, became the first person to ski alone across the Antarctic land-mass using only personal muscle power, as well as the first woman to cross the Antarctic land-mass alone.
2013 – On her fifth attempt and at age 64, the American Diana Nyad was the first person confirmed to swim from Cuba to Florida without the protection of a shark cage, swimming from Havana to Key West.
2014 – At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Torah Bright, from Australia, became the first woman to qualify for three snowboard disciplines; specifically snowboard cross, halfpipe and slopestyle. The first women competed in ski jumping at the Olympics.
2014 – Abbey Holmes became the first woman to kick 100 goals in one regular season of Australian Rules football.
2014 – 16-year-old Katie Ormerod, from Britain, became the first female snowboarder to land a backside double cork 1080.
2014 – Gabrielle Augustine pitched the final two innings for Hunter's Inn, thus becoming the first woman to play in the Glenwood Baseball League, which is the longest-running amateur baseball league in the United States, founded in 1920.
2014 – Tara Remington from New Zealand and Angela Madsen from California became the first female pair of rowers to cross the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii; this trip also made Angela Madsen the first paraplegic to row from California to Hawaii.
2014 – Michele A. Roberts was elected as the new Executive Director of the National Basketball Players Association, thus making her the first woman to be elected to the highest position of a major sport's players association within the United States.
2014 – Cecilia Brækhus, from Norway, became the first Norwegian and the first woman to hold all major world championship titles in her weight division (welterweight) in boxing.
2014 – Kelly Xu, of Santa Monica, Calif., won the girls 7–9 division in the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, thus becoming the first female champion ever crowned at Augusta National Golf Club.
2014 – After an announcement on May 31, women competed in medieval combat as a sport for the first time at the International Medieval Combat Federation (IMCF) world championship. American Amy Graham and the women's melee team USA Valkyries (Sandra Lagnese, Karen Prentice, Kati Takacs, Suzanne Lyons Elleraas) won gold medals.
2015 - The NWHL was created.
2015 – Mieko Nagaoka, a 100-year-old Japanese woman, became the first centenarian to complete a 1500m swim in a 25-meter pool; specifically, she completed 30 laps of the pool in 1 hour, 15 minutes, 54 seconds, in a masters event in Matsuyama, Japan.
2015 – The first African-Americans to place in the top three spots at the 100 yard freestyle in any Women's Division I NCAA Swimming Championship were: Simone Manuel, Lia Neal, and Natalie Hinds in that order.
2015 – Saina Nehwal became the first Indian women's player to be World No.1 in badminton.
2015 – Diane Reid became the first Canadian woman to be appointed as skipper in the world's longest ocean race, the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. In the same race, Wendy Tuck became the first Australian woman to be appointed as skipper.
2015 – Alia Al Shamsi became the first Emirati female swimmer to represent the country's national team, which she did at the Arab Age Group Swimming Championships.
2015 – Kieran Ballard-Tremeer, from South Africa, became the first woman to swim around the Palm Jumeirah; she completed the 14.5 km-distance swim around it in a time of four hours and 28 minutes, swimming inside the breakwater of Palm Jumeirah.
2015 – The American McKenna Haase became the first woman to win a feature Sprint Car race at Knoxville Raceway.
2015 – Sarah Taylor, from England, became the first woman to play men's grade cricket in Australia, when she appeared as wicketkeeper for Northern Districts against Port Adelaide at Salisbury Oval in South Australia's premier men's competition.
2015 – The Raleigh Flyers of the American Ultimate Disc League signed the first ever female professional ultimate frisbee player, Jessi Jones, to play in their game against the Nashville Nightwatch. Jones, who was a team USA U-23 player in 2013, was signed as part of "Women's Ultimate Day".
2016 – Kaillie Humphries, from Canada, became the first woman to drive an all-female team against men in a four-person World Cup bobsled race on January 9; her teammates were Cynthia Appiah, Genevieve Thibault and Melissa Lotholz.
2016 – Chan Yuen-ting of Hong Kong became the first woman to coach a men's professional association football (soccer) team to the championship of a nation's top league. The following year, she became the first woman to coach a male football (soccer) club in a top-flight continental competition when she managed a team against Guangzhou Evergrande in the AFC Champions League.
2017 – In the 2017 season, Jesse Shofner was selected to the roster for the Nashville Nightwatch, which made her the first female player to make a full season American Ultimate Disc League roster. She scored two goals in the Nashville Nightwatch's first game of the 2017 season, making her the first woman to do so in any American Ultimate Disc League game.
2017 – Ana Carrasco of Spain became the first woman to win an individual world championship motorcycle race, when she won the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship.
2017 – Spain's Alhambra Nievas and Ireland's Joy Neville become the first and second women referees to take charge of men's rugby union internationals when they refereed matches in the Rugby Europe Conference.
2019 – Caitlin Nash and Natalie Corless, both of Canada, became the first all-female team to compete in a World Cup doubles race in luge.
2020 - Sabrina Ionescu of the United States became the first college basketball player to collect 2,000 points, 1,000 assists, and 1,000 rebounds playing for the Oregon Ducks, during her college career at the University of Oregon.
2020 - Becky Hammon was the first female to act as the head coach during the San Antonio Spurs versus Lakers game on December 30, 2020 when head coach Gregg Popovich was ejected in the second quarter.
- The marathon world record progression of the Association of Road Running Statisticians includes Piercy, however, it notes Marie-Louise Ledru of France as the first woman. According to the ARRS, Ledru ran 5:40:xx at the Tour de Paris Marathon held on 29 September 1918.
- A number of sources, including Kathrine Switzer, have reported that the venue for Piercy's mark was the actual Polytechnic Marathon; however, records from the Association of Road Racing Statisticians confirm that the 1926 Polytechnic Marathon was held on 18 May. The course for the Polytechnic Marathon did vary over the years and there is currently very little information available to state exactly which route was run by Piercy. Although the IAAF progression notes the location for her performance as "Chiswick", the Polytechnic Marathon did not end in Chiswick until 1938. Prior to 1933, the Polytechnic Marathon ended at Stamford Bridge in West London. An ESPN reference does note Stamford Bridge as the location where Piercy's run finished.
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