The 2012-13 women’s basketball team is a roll. Led by Coach Michelle Clark-Heard—herself a former Lady Topper—they join a long line of great basketball teams here on the hill. But where did that tradition begin?
98 years ago, on this day in 1915, the women of Western Kentucky State Normal School played their very first game against another school. This team was an unusual group. In the fall of 1914, each literary society in the school organized a girls’ basketball team. That’s right—the athletes came from the literary set. They learned the rules, practiced diligently, and then played each other.
The Senior team handily won every game they played, but all of the teams came in for compliments in the school magazine, The Elevator. Even the Kit-Kats and the Loyals, who only won three games between them, were praised, “because they have improved so much since they began. They have nerve, courage and ‘that other thing’ that has strengthened them against the attacks of a stronger force.”
When their intermural season was over, a varsity team was chosen from the best players of all the society teams. They challenged Logan College in Russellville to a game for the first day of March, 1915. The Elevator reporters reveled in the game: “On that great and memorable day the chosen ten from the Western set forth to seek renown for our dear old Normal by completely vanquishing and utterly subduing the basketball Amazons of Logan College.” Vanquish, they did. The newly formed varsity team “played with all the vim and determination and ‘that other thing’ that Normalites are famous for,” and won the game, 12 to 8.
When that game ended, that was it. One game and the “season” was over. Regular games didn’t start again until 1921. However, the legacy of this plucky team was on-going. In fact, one of those winning varsity players, guard Josephine Cherry, became the coach of the 1921-22 team and supported the teams that followed.
The Elevator said at the time, “The whole school joins in congratulations to these valiant girls in whose hearts are ever burning the bright fire of zeal and interest in every phase of our athletic work.” 98 years later, we join them in congratulations and appreciation to the 1915 Women’s Basketball varsity team for laying down a lasting foundation.
To learn more about this team, check out the February and April Elevators.
Search our online catalog, KenCat or visit the Harrison-Baird Reading Room of the Kentucky Library & Museum (Monday – Saturday, 9 – 4) for more information on women’s intramural basketball or any of the teams that have played since.
[*Photo Identification, first row, l-r: Zona Lee Searce, Mary Brown, Anna McClusky. Second row: Pearl Jordan, Josephine Cherry, Lucy Booth, Laura Phelps. Third row: Coach J. L. Arthur, Mary Holton, Martha Holton, Louise Jordan.]
Blog post written by WKU Archives Assistant Katherine Chappell.