Lincoln Presidential Library chronicles girls basketball through
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[April 06, 2013]
SPRINGFIELD -- With basketball
fever in the air, it's easy to forget that the thrill of the game
was denied to many Illinois girls less than 40 years ago. A new oral
history project by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and
Museum chronicles the early struggles for girls and young women who
wanted to play basketball.
Illinois didn't host its first state high school basketball
tournament for girls until 1977, five years after Congress passed
Title IX. That landmark education law succeeded in "throwing open
the door" to growth in girls' and women's sports, dramatically
changing American culture.
The oral history project -- entitled
"What About the Character of the Girls?: Girls' and Women's
Basketball in Illinois, 1968-1977" -- includes 18 interviews, with
many more to come. Participants include Sue Strong, whose Sterling
team won the state's first basketball tournament for girls; Jill
Hutchison, the winningest basketball coach in Illinois State
University history; Linda Gollan, the first girls basketball coach
at Hinsdale South High School, and Lorene Ramsey, former head coach
at Illinois Central College.
The title of the project comes from Ramsey, who was allowed
access to the gym only one day a week when she was coaching in Pekin
decades ago. Her request for more gym time was turned down by
administrators who said sports helped develop the character of boys.
Ramsey responded by writing "What about the character of the girls?"
in red letters across the rejection memo and sending it back to the
school's athletic director.
The oral histories can be heard at
Additional oral histories are featured at
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The interviews were conducted by Ellyn Bartges, who knows
firsthand about the difficulties facing female athletes. Bartges
played in Illinois' very first high school girls basketball
tournament. She later coached basketball and softball at the
collegiate and high school levels. Her own memories are part of the
project, thanks to an interview conducted by Mark DePue, head of the
oral history project at the Lincoln Presidential Library. (MP3
"These interviews capture an extraordinary time in the history of
Illinois and the nation," Bartges said. "Women, joined by some
forward-thinking men, were working hard to give girls something that
is taken for granted today -- the same athletic opportunities that
boys routinely enjoy."
Bartges began conducting the interviews while working on her
master's degree at Western Illinois University. The project
originally focused on the Illinois scene but expanded to incorporate
stories from throughout the country while Bartges pursued her Ph.D.
through the University of Illinois Kinesiology Department. The
interviews now include people who influenced players and coaches in
Bartges is now an affirmative action administrator at St. Cloud
State University. She is available for interviews at 320-308-5123 or
via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
file received from the