Game Changers

100 Years of Women's Athletics at William & Mary
August 23, 2018
Women's Field Hockey team during Homecoming Parade, 1934
Women’s Field Hockey team during Homecoming
Parade, 1934

Martha Barksdale Papers, UA 6.004

In September 1918, a group of bold young women entered the College of William & Mary for the first time. Despite community objection and on-campus hostility, these trailblazers quickly made the campus their home by pursuing friendships, academics and athletics. Early in that crucial first semester, they took to the field for an impromptu basketball game. As described by participant Martha Barksdale, the game was organized to entertain and cheer up. Thus, with a quick pick-up basketball game, women’s athletics commenced at William & Mary.

Since then, the university has hosted women’s field hockey tournaments, synchronized swimming exhibitions, and lacrosse finals. From basketball to canoeing, from track and field to tennis, women have found athletic outlets to complement their academic pursuits. Women’s teams have won regional and national championships, and individual athletes have achieved national and international success. Despite these accomplishments, women’s athletics also struggled with inadequate facilities, uniform shortages, and budgetary crises. This exhibit highlights the significant history of women’s athletics at William & Mary, celebrates its game-changing athletes, and anticipates its bright future.


Curator: Mariaelena DiBenigno, Special Collections Exhibits Apprentice and PhD Candidate in American Studies.
Exhibit Design: Abram Clear, SCRC Graphics Student Assistant; and Jennie Davy, Exhibits Manager.
Fabrication and Installation: Mariaelena DiBenigno; Jennie Davy; Jamie Fletcher and Daniil Eliseev, Undergraduate Student Assistants; Kim Sims, University Archivist; and Kaitlyn Sisk, Digital Archivist.