During the 19th-century, women began to participate in outdoor sports in public spaces. Clothing worn for sports began to change as well. This chronology traces that evolution.
1804 - Horseracing The first known woman jockey was Alicia Meynell of England. She first competed in a four-mile race in York, England.
1805 - Ballooning Madeleine Sophie Armant Blanchard solos in the first of 67 gas-powered balloon flights. She made her living as a balloonist, was appointed official Aeronaut of the Empire by Napoleon, and toured Europe until she fell to her death in an aerial fireworks display in 1819.
1805 - Ice Skating The first known ice skating race for Dutch women is in held in Leeuwarden.
1805 - Horseracing Englishwoman Alicia Meynell, riding as Mrs. Thornton, defeats a leading male jockey, Buckle, in a race.
1811 - Golf On January 9, the first known women’s golf tournament is held at Musselburgh Golf Club, Scotland, among the town fishwives.
1819 - Thightrope Mms. Adolphe becomes the first known woman to perform on a tightrope in the US in New York City.
1825 - Ballooning Madame Johnson takes off in a hot air balloon in New York, landing in a New Jersey swamp.
1834 - Lacrosse The first modern Lacrosse games are played. Lacrosse will become a major new sports opportunity for women in the 1990's with many colleges offering scholarship dollars. The original game was played by North American Indians.
1837 - Donald Walker's book, Exercise for Ladies, warns women against horseback riding, because it deforms the lower part of the body.
1850 - Bloomers Amelia Jenks Bloomer begins publicizing a new style of women's dress, first introduced by Fanny Kemble, a British-born actress - loose-fitting pants worn under a skirt. Other women's rights leaders like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony adopted the new style. But it wasn't until Katharine Hepburn (another actress) began wearing stylish pants in public nearly a century later that a wide-spread revolution in women's clothing finally "took."
1855 - Hockey The first modern game of hockey is played in Kingston, Ontario, using rules similar to today's. Women's hockey will become a new sports opportunity in the 1980's and '90's, with the US Women's team winning the gold medal in 1998, the first year women's ice hockey is a medal sport.
1856 - Catherine Beecher (1800-78) publishes Physiology and Calisthenics for Schools and Families, the first fitness manual for women.
1858 - Mountain Climbing Julia Archibald Holmes (1838-87) climbs Pikes Peak in Colorado (14,110 feet) wearing bloomers on Aug. 5.
1863 - Roller Skating New Yorker James Plimpton uses a rubber cushion to enable the wheels of roller skates to turn slightly when the skater shifted his or her weight. This design is considered the basis for the modern roller skate, allowing for safer, controlled skating.
1864 - Croquet The Park Place Croquet Club of Brooklyn organizes with 25 members. Croquet is probably the first game played by both men and women in America.
1865 - Swimming & Boating Matthew Vassar opens Vassar College with a special School of Physical Training with classes in riding, gardening, swimming, boating, skating and "other physical accomplishments suitable for ladies to acquire ... bodily strength and grace."
1866 - Baseball Vassar College fields the first two women's amateur baseball teams.
1867 - Baseball The Dolly Vardens, a black women's team from Philadelphia, is a women's professional baseball team.
1867 - Mountain Climbing Frances S. Case and Mary Robinson climb Mt. Hood in Oregon (11,235 feet).
1867 - Golf St. Andrew's in Scotland is the first ladies golf club.
1869 - Cycling Frenchwomen enter cycling races at Bordeaux, France.
1869 - Croquet The first women's croquet championship is held in England and won by a Mrs. Joad.
1870 - Sculling In a sculling contest held on the Monongahela River, Lottie McAlice and Maggie Lew, both 16, row 1 mile. McAlice wins the race in 18:54, winning a gold watch and a $2,000 purse.
1871 - Mountain Climbing Addie Alexander climbs the 14,256 foot Longs Peak in Colorado.
1871 - Roller Skating Miss Carrie A. Moore demonstrates a variety of roller skating movements at the Occidental Rink in San Francisco. Later in the same day, she exhibits her skill on a velocipede.
1871 - Rowing The Empire City Rowing Club's 10th annual regatta features a rowing match among young women on the Harlem River in New York on Sept. 25. Five women row 17-foot workboats around a 2 mile course. Rowing the Glen, Amelia Shean wins the singles race in 18:32. Elizabeth Custarce and Annie Harris win the pairs race.
1872 - Baseball Mills College in Oakland, CA establishes women's college baseball teams.
1873 - Swiming 10 young women compete in a mile-long swimming contest in the Harlem River. Miss Deliliah Goboess wins the prize, a silk dress worth $175.
1874 - Tennis Mary Ewing Outerbridge of Staten Island introduces tennis to the United States. She purchases tennis equipment in Bermuda (and had trouble getting it through Customs!) and uses it to set up the first US tennis court at the Staten Island Cricket and Baseball Club that spring.
1875 - Ballooning Lizzie Ihling, the niece of famed American balloonist John Wise, makes a solo flight on July 5. The skin of the bag began to rip, sending the balloon falling to earth. Lizzie was not injuried.
1875 - Baseball The "Blondes" and "Brunettes" play their first match In Springfield, IL on Sept. 11. Newspapers heralded the event as the "first game of baseball ever played in public for gate money between feminine ball-tossers."
1875 - Ice Skating Wellesley College opens with a college gymnasium for exercising and a lake for ice skating and the first rowing program for women.
1875 - Swimming English teenager Agnes Beckwith, accomplishes a long distance swim in the Thames River from London Bridge to Greenwich, a distance of about 6 miles.
1875 - Roller Skating The first known roller-skating rink opens in London.
1876 - Walking Mary Marshall, 26, shocks spectators when she beats Peter VanNess in the best of three walking matches (called Pedestrians) in New York City.
1876 - Tightrope Maria Speltarini crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope in July, wearing 38-pound weights on each ankle.
1876 - Mountain Climbing Ten percent of the members of the newly created Appalachin Mountain Club are women.
1876 - Boxing Nell Saunders defeated Rose Harland in the first United States women's boxing match, receiving a silver butter dish as a prize.
1877 - Swimming Eliza Bennett swims across the Hudson River in August.
1877 - Field Hockey The first known women's field hockey club is started in Surrey, England.
1878 - Walking Woman pedestrian Ada Anderson walks 3,000 quarter-miles in 3,000 quarter hours over the course of a month in New York' Mozart Hall, kicking off a series of "lady walker" matches.
1879 - Archery The first National Archery Championship is held, with 20 women participating.
1879 - Speed Walking Speed-walker Ada Anderson walks 2,700 quarter-miles in 2,700 quarter hours, as indoor Pedestrianism continues to attract attention.
1880 - Ballooning Balloonist Mary Meyers makes her first ascent on July 4 at Little Falls, NY before a crowd of 15,000.
1880 - Swimming Distance swimmer Agnes Beckwith treads water for 30 hours in the whale tank of the Royal Aquarium of Westminster to equal a pervious mark set by Matthew Webb.
1881 - Horseracing Bell Cook of California and Emma Jewett of Minnesota toured the country, competing in a series of 20-mile horse races. On Sept. 29, in Rochester, NY's Driving Park, the two compete, with Jewwtt winning for the first time when Cook was thrown from her horse with only half a mile to go. Jewett covered the 20 miles in 45:05 using a nunber of changes of mount.
1881 - Indoor Tennis Indoor tennis is played inside the 7th Regiment Armory in New York City on Nov. 26, with 12 courts put in use for women enthusiasts and their male partners.
1881 - Indoor Swimming Edith Johnson of England sets the world's endurance indoor swimming record at 31 hours. The record holds until 1928.
1882 - Croquet The National Croquet Association is formed to revise and standarize the rules.
1882 - Athletic Competition At the YWCA in Boston, the first athletic games for women are held.
1883 - Archery Mrs. M. C. Howell wins her first archery title. She will win the national championship for women 17 times between 1883 and 1907.
1883 - Baseball The first baseball "Ladies Day" is held on June 16 by the NY Giants, where both escorted and unescroted women are allowed into the park for free.
1884 - Tennis Women's singles tennis competition is added to Wimbledon. Maud Watson wins in both 1884 and '85.
1885 - The Association of Collegiate Alumnae publishes a study which concludes that "...it is sufficient to say that female [college] graduates...do not seem to show, ...any marked difference in general health for the average health ... of women engaged in other kinds of work, or in fact, of women generally...", refuting the widely held belief that college study impaired a woman’s physical health and ability to bear children.
1885 - Sharp Shooting Annie Oakley (Phoebe Ann Moses, 1860-1926), 25, is the sharp-shooting star of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. She could hit a moving target while riding a galloping horse; hit a dime in mid-air; and regularly shot a cigarette from her husband's lips.
1885 -Roller Skating More than $20 million has been invested in roller skating rinks in almost every city and small town around the country.
1886 - Ballooning Mary Hawley Myers sets a world altitude record in a hot air balloon, soaring 4 miles above Franklin, PA, without benefit of oxygen equipment. Her first balloon ascent was in Little Falls, NY in 1880. Between 1880 and 1890 she completed more balloon ascents than any other living person.
1886 - Lacrosse The first known women's lacrosse game is played.
1887 - Field Hockey A women's field hockey club is started in Surrey, England.
1887 - Tennis Ellen Hansell is crowned the first Women's Singles tennis champion at the US Open.
1887 - Tennis Lottie Dod wins the women's Wimbledon Championship five times between 1887 and 1893.
1887 - Tennis First Women's French Tennis Championship is held.
1887 - Indoor Baseball Indoor baseball (the forerunner of softball) was invented by George Hancock at the Farragut Boat Club on Chicago's South Side. The first game was played on Thanksgiving Day. The basic equipment included a huge 17-inch ball and a stick-like bat. No gloves were worn, and the catcher wore no mask. It quickly became the indoor winter sport of choice for boys and girls in the area.
1887 - Trap Shooting Rose Coghlin ties two men in a mixed trap shooting match held at the Philadephia Gun Club. All three score 7.
1888 - Cycling The modern "safety" bicycle is invented with a light frame and two equal-sized wheels and a chain drive.
1888 - Cycling Women join (bi)cycling clubs in Chicago and tennis clubs in New York City.
1888 - Auto Racing Berta Benz becomes the first woman to drive on a 60 mile trip cross-country in Germany in a "motor-wagon" (a 3-horse-power car with solid rubber tires) with only her two teenage sons along in August.
1888 - The Amateur Athletic Union is formed to establish standards and uniformity in amateur sport. During its early years, the AAU served as a leader in international sport representing the US in the international sports federations.
1888 - Fencing AAU holds its first fencing championships. Professor J. Hartl of Vienna tours America with a women's fencing demonstration; women begin to fence at private clubs.
1888 - Skating Lord Stanley, the Governor General of Canada, has an outdoor skating rink created in his back yard for his wife and 10 children (including 2 daughters) to skate and play hockey on. Lord Stanley will donate a silver bowl worth about $50 which will become the coveted Stanley Cup, to be won each year by the top amateur hockey team in Canada.
1889 - Cycling The first women's six-day bicycle race ends at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
1889 - Hockey Isobel Stanley is one of the first women hockey players in Canada. Her Governmnt House team played the Rideau ladies in what may be the first women's hockey game in Ottawa. There is a photograph in the National Archives of Canada commemorating the "action."
1890's - Cycling More than a million American women will own and ride bicycles during the next decade. It is the first time in American history that an athletic activity for women will become widely popular.
1890 - Golf Miss Carrie Low and John Reid defeat Mrs. Reid and John Upham in golf's first mixed foursome.
1890's - Baseball The Bloomer Girls baseball era lasted from the 1890s until 1934. Hundreds of teams -- All Star Ranger Girls, Philadelphia Bobbies, New York Bloomer Girls, Baltimore Black Sox Colored Girls -- offered employment, travel, and adventure for young women who could hit, field, slide, or catch.
1890 - Baseball A women's baseball club plays a game against the Danville, IL Browns before 2,000 fans on Sunday, June 8. As the women leave town in carriages for Covington, IN, they are arrested and fined a total of $100 for disturbing the peace by playing baseball on Sunday in viloation of the local "Blue Laws." The men's team members are also arrested.
1890 - Baseball Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochran Seaman) becomes the first woman to travel around the world alone - she does it in just 72 days while a reporter for the New York World newspaper, returning on Jan. 25.
1890 - Cycling Fanny Bullock Workman (1859-1925), with her husband William, begins 10 years of bicycle tours. Cycling across the back roads of Europe and charting new pathways for fellow cyclists, the Workmans published their first travel book in 1895, after a tour of Algeria. They toured the Far East, cycling across Asian countries and the Indian Subcontinent in 1897 and 1898, publishing more travel accounts. For the rest of their careers they were mountaineers, completing eight Himalayan expeditions between 1898 and 1912.
1890 - Mountain Climbing Fay Fuller climbs the 14,410 foot Mt. Rainier in Washington.
1891 - Walking Zoe Gayton arrives in Castleton, New York on March 20 after walking cross-country in 213 day, leaving the West Coast in Aug. 1890, averaging 18 miles per day. She won a $2,000 wager.
1891 - Rifle Shooting At least 60 women enter a rifle-shooting contest in Regina, Saskatchewan.
1891 - Exploring Mary French Sheldon (1847-1936) mounts her first expedition to East Africa. Her her travel accounts broke new, scientific and anthropological territory by focusing on the women and children in the territories she visited. She was one of only twenty-two women who were invited to join the Royal Geographic Society in 1892, an invitation withdrawn after contentious debate about women's presence in the Society. She eventually made four trips around the world.
1891 - Ice Hockey On Feb. 11, two unnamed women's ice hockey teams play a match in Ottawa, Ontario.
1891 - Golf The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island opens its doors to women. Golf proved so popular that the club opened a 9-hole course for women two years later.
1891 - Parachuting Beatrice Von Dressden, 14 of Buffalo, NY, makes her first parachute jump from a hot air balloon.
1892 - The Journal Physical Education (a publication of the YMCA) devote an issue to women, saying that women need physical strength and endurance and dismis the popular idea that women are too weak to exercise.
1892 - Gymnastics Gymnastics instructor Senda Berenson Abbott adapts James Naismith's basketball rules for women and introduces the game to her students at Smith College, where she became the first director of physical education in Jan. Her rules confine each player to one-third of the court.
1892 - The Sierra Club of California welcomes women members as it organizes.
1892 - Rifle Shooting Louise Pound, (born Lincoln, NE June 30, 1872), enrolles at the University of Nebraska and earned a BA degree in 1892 and her MA in 1895. While in college she helped organize a girls' military company and she set a record at rifle target practice. She was the first woman named to the Lincoln Journal Sports Hall of Fame in 1954. She participated in tennis, golf, cycling, and ice skating, and also coached girls' basketball. She made pioneering contributions to American philology and folklore.
1892 - Boxing Hessie Donahue, who donned a loose blouse, bloomers and boxing gloves and sparred a few rounds as part of a vaudeville act, knocks out legendary heavyweight champion John L. Sullivan for over a minute after he accidentally landed a real blow on her during the act.
1893 to 1900 - Cycling The "Golden Age of the Bicycle", with the development of the modern-style "safety bicycle" with two equal- sized wheels, coaster brakes, and pneumatic tires creating a comfortable, faster and safer ride. A side effect is more common-sense dressing for women.
1893 - Cycling 16-year old Tessie Reynonds of Brighton rides her bycycle to London and back, a distance of 120 miles, in 8.5 hours. She wore the shocking "rationale" dress - a long jacket over knickers, which outraged some observers as much as her feat.
1893 - Golf Formation of the Ladies Golf Union which sponsors the first British Ladies' championship, won by Lady Margaret Scott.
1893 - A women's ice hockey team is formed in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
1893 - Mountian Climbing Katharine Lee Bates climbs to the top of Pike's Peak and is inspired to compose a poem, "America, the Beautiul."
1894 - Golf The first ladies golf tournament is held on the 7-hole Morristown, NJ course on Oct 17-1894. Miss Hollard A. Ford won with a 97 scored on the double-7, 14 strokes under her nearest rival.
1894 - Indoor Hockey College girls at McGill University in Montreal begin weekly ice hockey games at an indoor rink - with 3 male students on "guard" at the door.
1894 - Cycling Annie "Londonderry" Kopchovsky, 23, sets out to become the first woman to bicycle around the world, a journey that lasted 15 months and earned her $5,000 along the way.
1894 - Golf The first Australian women's national golf championship is held.
1894 - Field Hockey The Irish Ladies Hockey Union, the first national women's field hockey association, is formed in Dublin.
1895 - Mountain Climbing Annie Smith Peck is the first woman to reach the peak of the Matterhorn. She climbed in a pair of knickerbockers, causing a sensation with the press. She helps to found the American Alpine Club in 1902.
1895 - Golf The first Women's Amateur Golf championship is contested among 13 golfers at the Meadow Brook Club, Hempstead, N.Y., on Nov. 9. The match is won by Mrs. Charles S. Brown with a 132 and the runner-up is Nellie Sargent.
1895 - The first organised athletics meeting is generally recognized as the "Field Day" at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY, on Nov. 9. A group of "nimble, supple and vivacious girls" engaged in running and jumping events despite bad weather.
1895 - Cycling Frances Willard, president of the WTCU, publishes A Wheel Within a Wheel, a best-selling account of learning to ride a bicycle.
1895 - Softball The first women's softball team is formed at Chicago's West Division High School. They did not have a coach for competitive play until 1899.
1895 - Volleyball Volleyball is invented in Holyoke, MA. By the 1990's, volleyball is the second-largest participation sport in the United States with more than 42 million participants. There is indoor and outdoor competition for boys and girls, men and women and co-ed teams.
1895 - Bowling The American Bowling Congress is organized, establishing equipment standards and rules on Sept. 9. By the 1990's, bowling is the second-largest participation sport in the world, with more than 100 million athletes, 46% of whom are women who compete equally with men.
1895 - Mrs. Frank Sittig exhibits her new duplex riding skirt - which The New York Times judges to be "An ideal suit for cycling, to which even the most prudish could not object."
1896 - Cycling Women are buying 25-30% of all new bicycles.
1896 - Cycling The first 6-day bicycle race for women starts on Jan 6 at Madison Square Garden in NYC.
1896 - Basketball The first women's intercollegiate basketball championship is played between Stanford and the University of California at Berkely. Stanford wins 2-1 on April 4 before a crowd of 700 women!
1896 - At the first modern Olympics in Athens, a woman, Melpomene, barred from the official race, runs the same course as the men, finishing in 4 hours 30 minutes. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, says, "It is indecent that the spectators should be exposed to the risk of seeing the body of a women being smashed before their very eyes. Besides, no matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organizm is not cut out to sustain certain shocks."
1896 - "Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride on a wheel. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance." Susan B. Anthony, US suffragist.
1897 - Acrobatics Lena Jordan becomes the first person to successfully execute the triple somersault on the flying trapeze. The first man to acomplish this didn't do so until 1909.
1897 - Tennis The first Women's French Tennis Championship is held.
1898 - Cycling Three women create a stir when they compete in a "century run" endurance contest in bicyling. Irene Bush of Brooklyn rides 400 miles in 48 hours; Jane Yatman of Brooklyn rides 500 miles in 58 hours; and Jane Lindsay rides 600 miles in 72 hours.
1898 - Baseball Lizzie Arlington becomes the first woman to sign a professional baseball contract, appearing in her first professional game pitching for the Philadelphia Reserves.
1899 - Cycling Setting a new women's cycling endurance record, 125 pound Jane Yatman rides 700 miles in 81 hours, 5 mintes on Long Island. During the 3 and one half day trial, she rests less than 2 hours. Her record is beaten on Oct. 19 by Jane Lindsay who rides 900 mikes in 91 hours, 48 minutes.
1899 - Ice Hockey Two teams of women ice hockey players play a game on the artifical ice at the Ice Palace in Philadelphia.
1899 - Ping Pong/Table Tennis Ping-pong, or table tennis, as it soon becomes known, is invented.
This outline of women in sports was developed by the St. Lawrence County Branch of the New York State, American Association of University Women. The AAUW advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, and research. See here.