Women’s sports at Penn unofficially began when women enrolled in the University in the late 1800s. These activities flourished in 1921 with the creation of the Women’s Athletic Association (WAA).
Founded by Margaret Majer, a physical education instructor, the WAA soon formed a basketball team and began competing in intercollegiate competitions. The Penn team played women from Bryn Mawr College, Temple, and Drexel. Two hours of elective classes were offered each day at the Kingsessing Playground and Gymnasium at 49th Street and Chester Avenue.
Penn softball was introduced in 1922, along with women’s gymnastics, swimming, and tennis teams.
The Women’s Record, the yearbook for women students, featured an item in 1942 about the creation of the WAA.
“The Women’s Athletic Association has promoted in each woman student the desire to master some sport—consequently giving them relaxation and fun throughout college years and an interest that may be resorted to in years to come.”
In this 1942 photo, taken during a team practice, a Quaker softball player slides into home plate.
The women’s yearbook, which was later renamed the Dolphin, highlighted the softball team in 1951 in a section called “Belles of the Ball.” That year, the team ended the season with three wins and three losses. The year’s play included this description: “A rainy six-week season found the ‘Slugging Nine’ completing the year with an even tally of wins and losses. Despite the heavy opposition always found in Ursinus and Temple, the team showed marked improvement over previous games with those schools.”
For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives at www.archives.upenn.edu.