In the Victorian era, women were discouraged from participating in any activity that was not graceful and lady-like. Women were considered frail and it was not appropriate for a woman to take part in anything that would be strenuous or sweaty. Sports were reserved for the men.
By the 1900’s, there were many upper-class women beginning to try tennis, skating, horseback riding, and roller skating. By the end of the 1900’s, many middle- and upper-class women were playing tennis, golf, and curling. All the games were informal in nature. There was not any concept of competition like the male athletes. Team sports were still not seen as acceptable for women. However, by 1910, most towns in Nova Scotia, Canada had women’s basketball teams.
One spectacular female athlete in the early 1900’s was Bobbie Rosenfeld, a Russian émigré to Canada. She excelled as a sprinter, was number one in the long jump, shot put and discus in 1925. In 1928, she won the first silver medal for Canada at the Olympics track and field for women. She also played tennis, basketball, softball, and hockey.
During World War II, an astounding number of women entered the workforce and many participated in sports and teams sports. Many male athletes were overseas fighting but some tournaments continued, this time with women as the competitors. When the war was over, women found themselves being replaced by men, both in the workforce and in sports. But women were not content to return to housework and leave sports to the men. From 1945 to 1960, more opportunities opened up for women to participate as true athletes and be recognized as such.