When I wrote about the 1916 Cicero High School boys’ basketball team a couple of weeks ago, I really didn’t intend to do a sequel.
However, Lois Costomiris’ book, “More Rail Fences, Rolling Pins & Rainbows,” also contains a chapter on the Cicero girls’ basketball team of that era and, this being Women’s History Month, it seems only right to devote equal time to the girls.
The information in the book was provided by two members of that team, Agnes Applegate Haworth and Pauline Buzan Long. Their experiences will make you appreciate just how far women’s sports have come in the last 100 years.
Haworth and Long noted that although Cicero High School’s female students were as proud of their male counterparts’ successes on the basketball court as the rest of Cicero, the girls were also a little envious of the attention and privileges the boys received.
It didn’t sit well with the girls that the boys were sometimes chauffeured to away games in large automobiles owned by local businessmen, while most of the girls could barely afford to pay the ten cent admission to home games.
Rather than get mad about the unequal treatment, however, the girls formed their own basketball team. Their sponsor was Cicero High School’s English and history teacher, Margaret Harvey.
(I found an item in a 1915 Noblesville Daily Ledger that referred to Harvey as their coach, but Haworth and Long described her as their manager and indicated their games were coached and refereed by men.)
The girls’ team played second fiddle to the boys in pretty much everything — from the places they were allowed to practice, to the ball they used.
In the previous column I mentioned that the boys’ team played with a single ball all season. By the end of the season the ball was so lop-sided it was difficult to shoot accurately with it.
Was it discarded? Heck, no. It was handed down to the girls for their games.
Female players also had to follow a different set of regulations.
For example, while the boys played on the entire basketball court, the girls were confined to a half-court game because, even though most of them were “hard-working farm ladies,” it was believed females weren’t physically up to the challenge of a full court.
(That half court nonsense was still going on in MY pre-Title IX time.)
Another area where girls’ basketball differed from that of the boys was the clothing they wore.
The boys’ shorts and sleeveless tops at least bore some resemblance to modern basketball uniforms.
By contrast, the girls were almost completely covered in middies (loose blouses with square, sailor-type collars at the back,) and bloomers (extremely baggy trousers that fastened below the knee.)
Those bloomers were made from FIVE yards of black cotton sateen. That’s nearly two and a half yards of material on each leg. Imagine having to run around a basketball court — even a half court — in that outfit!
Canvas shoes and black stockings completed the ensemble, leaving only the girls’ hands and faces exposed.
Even the mere suggestion they had legs was frowned upon.
When the boys swapped socks one day so each boy could display the school colors by wearing one red sock and one yellow one, the girls decided to show up at school the following day with one black stocking and one white one.
Only about an inch of stocking showed between the girls’ ankle-high shoes and their skirts, but that was too much for the thoroughly rattled school superintendent (and boys’ basketball coach.) He informed the girls their stunt drew “attention to where it shouldn’t.”
Wow. It’s a good thing he’s not around today to see cable TV.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Wednesday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com