By Ariel Scheib
Senda Berenson, nicknamed the “Mother of Women’s Basketball,” was born on March 19, 1868, in Vilna, Lithuania. Seven years later Berenson’s family immigrated to the United States. To improve her health, Berenson was sent to the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics, where she began her career as teaching physical education.
Berenson became Smith College’s first director of Physical Education; she would remain at Smith College for 19 years. On March 22, 1893, Berenson conducted the first official women’s basketball game between Smith sophomores competing against freshman. In 1899, she modified the rules of men’s basketball, introducing women’s basketball to the world. She authored the first Basketball Guide for Women from 1901 to 1907. From 1905 to 1917, she served as chairperson of the United States Women’s Basketball Committee.
Berenson died on February 16, 1954. On July 1, 1985, she was inducted as the first female into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Sources: “Senda Berenson (1868-1954).” American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random House, 1999) pg. 285.
"Senda Berenson ." International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame
Picture courtesy of: International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame