A Brief History of Women’s Sports in Minnesota


A year after Dr. James Naismith invents the game of “basket ball,” Naismith’s college roommate Max Exner moves to Northfield to work as Carleton College’s director of physical culture. Exner gathers a group of ladies in Gridley Hall and teaches them the rules of the game.


The Gophers women win their first intercollegiate basket ball—still two words at this point—game against Nebraska, 30–22. Five players earn the first letters awarded to women by the university.


The Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) sponsors its first state tournament for girls in swimming and diving. Virginia High School wins.


The decade-long dominance of Grand Meadow High’s basketball team ends when insane fears that sports “upset the endocrine balance in young females” cause Minnesota high schools to suspend their programs en masse. The Larks’ win streak is frozen at 94–0.


With 28 amateur golf titles, Minneapolis Washburn alum Patty Berg turns pro and signs a sponsorship deal with Wilson. After trading her signature clubs for a rifle as a Marine in WWII, Berg later wins the inaugural U.S. Women’s Open and becomes the founding president of the LPGA.


The Minneapolis Millerettes, of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, leave Nicollet Park midseason because of a sexist local press. They barnstorm the remainder as “the Minneapolis Orphans.”


St. Paul’s Marcenia Lyle “Toni” Stone is called up to the majors in the Negro American League after Indianapolis Clowns star second basemanHank Aaron joins the Boston Braves.


After being told by the St. Cloud Tech tennis coach that she can’t play, Peggy Brenden sues the MSHSL and is victorious in both courts—finishing with a winning record her senior year.


When the commissioner of the Women’s Professional Basketball League doesn’t come up with the money for their salaries, the Minnesota Fillies walk off the court before a game against the Chicago Hustle. Management brings in replacement players to finish the season.   


The MSHSL holds the first girls’ hockey state tournament in the country at Aldrich Arena. Apple Valley beats South St. Paul in the final.


Anoka’s Briana Scurry makes a historic save against China’s Liu Ying in the third penalty shot of the World Cup Final’s overtime. Scurry’s save proves to be the difference in winning USA’s second World Cup.


Chris Voelz, the powerful women’s athletic director at the University of Minnesota—she was instrumental in the construction of Ridder Arena for hockey, Robbie Stadium for soccer, and Cowles Stadium for softball—resigns when the men’s and women’s departments are merged.


Hutchinson’s Lindsay Whalen returns from a six-week layoff from a broken hand to lead the 7th-seed Gophers on a magical run to the Final Four in New Orleans.


Shaking off a brutal practice crash, Lindsey Vonn braves Vancouver’s Olympic downhill ski course—way scarier than Buck Hill!—to become the first U.S. woman to win gold in the event.


Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore, and former Gopher point guard Lindsay Whalen lead the Minnesota Lynx to their first WNBA title.


After being upset in their bid to defend their title in the WNBA Finals the previous season, the Lynx regain the trophy.


The MSHSL votes to open up girls’ sports to transgender student athletes. An athlete born male but identifying as female can establish eligibility with a written statement from their guardian or health care professional.


The Lynx win another one.


The Lynx win again!


The Minnesota Aurora, a community-owned soccer team in the USL W League, plays its first game at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

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