50 Years of Women's Varsity Athletics at Yale: A Historic Retrospective



"Athletic Dept. Greets Girls..."
Yale Daily News headline.  September 19, 1969.  


The 1969 implementation of Coeducation in Yale College represents one of the most important events in the history of Yale University during the 20th century.  Almost immediately, Yale women would make their presence known in all facets of student life, including sports.  Facilities in Payne Whitney Gymnasium were expanded to women, with 201 women students becoming members.  

Initially, the major activities for women at Payne Whitney were related to physical education.  Synchronized swimming, modern dance and ballet were offered and taught by part-time instructors.  Organized sports were not part of the earliest offerings to women.  Director of Physical Education Joni Barnett writes of that early period, "the philosophy of the Department indicated that Intercollegiate Sports Teams would be created when students showed sufficient interest and partipants for competitive athletics."  Women would quickly show their interest and soon after transform athletics at Yale for the next half-century.  

Yale’s women’s varsity teams included athletes of color, athletes part of the LGBTQIA+ community, first-generation and low-income (FGLI) athletes, and disabled athletes. Many times throughout history including today, athletes on these teams who identify with one or multiple of these marginalized communities have not felt comfortable, acknowledged, and appreciated. We encourage you to join us by asking ourselves what it means to be a woman, how womanhood and participation in women's athletics might mean different things to different individuals, and how the issues mentioned in the following sections disproportionately affected the athletes from these marginalized communities. Yale’s role as an institution allows for the continued address of the systemic issues these marginalized groups face on a broader scale.



"50 Years of Women's Varsity Athletics at Yale: A Historic Retrospective" was co-curated by Michael Lotstein, University Archivist, Jeanne Lowrey, Associate University Archivist, Gracie Anderson, MA candidate, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and Mahdere Yared, Class of 2025 (Benjamin Franklin College).  They were advised by Lawrie Mifflin, Class of 1973, Jennifer O'Neil, Assistant Director, Athletics Director's Office, and Trip Kirkpatrick, Class of 1993, Technical Lead, Library Information Technology.  

Funding for this exhibit was generously provided by the Office of the President and University Athletics.  


Questions or comments are welcome.  Please contact the University Archives at: archives@yale.edu