Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Historic Winter Sports - Women's Hockey & Giveaway

As a historic winter sport, women's hockey fascinates me for the fashion as well as the skill of the women and the mark they made on history. However, in researching for this post, I was discouraged by the lack of material proving that women played hockey in the first decades of the 20th century in the USA, and not just in the past few decades. Hence, this post appears biased on Canadian women's hockey, and considering that hockey began in Canada, that seems appropriate, but I have included whatever material I could uncover and legally post without breaking copyright restrictions.

Join me for a photographic journey back into the teams who made hockey history, although for the most part, they have never been considered worthy of induction into any hockey Hall of Fame.

The following 1907 backyard image of a girl on skates holding a hockey stick reminds me of the great hockey player, Wayne Gretzky, who started his career as a boy on his Ontario family's backyard rink.

 ca 1907, Edward T. Curlette and friend skating in flooded backyard, Calgary, Alberta. Courtesy of Glenbow Archives

The earliest known photograph of a women's hockey game is this one taken at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, home of the Governor General, the official regal representative in Canada. The Rideau Skating Club in Ottawa is recognized by both the National Hockey League (NHL) and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) as being the March 1889 location of the first women's hockey game on record. 

ca 1890 - Women playing hockey, at Rideau Hall, Ottawa. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

2015 Stanley Cup, wikipedia photo

In the above photo, it is interesting to know that the woman in white is Isobel Stanley, daughter of the then Governor General, Lord Stanley of Preston.

Lord Stanley and his family were so enamoured with the sport that he donated a silver decorative punch bowl to encourage competition between clubs. Originally called the Dominion Hockey Challenge Cup, it has grown over the years with every new victory and is now known simply as the Stanley Cup.

By the early 1900's, women were playing hockey in indoor and outdoor rinks across Canada. 

Even in the Yukon where the focus had been on the recent heady gold rush, pursuits changed to more leisurely past times like skating and hockey. This next image shows a 1904 match between the Dawsons and the Victorias.

Apr 13, 1904 - Ladies Hockey Match, Dawson, Yukon Territory, Canada

Calgary's Glenbow Museum Archives has several photographs showing western women as members of hockey teams, and also ones like this early one showing the 1909 Girls High School hockey team of Olds, Alberta. Not only are the hair styles different, but so are the quality of skates. 

1909 Girls' high school hockey team, Olds, Alberta.

The best known skates in the late 19th century were manufactured in the Halifax-Dartmouth area of Nova Scotia by the John Starr manufacturing company. Known as block or stock skates, they were strapped to the boot, and although thousands were sold, skatists complained of feeling insecure while wearing them as they often came loose.

John Forbes, foreman of John Starr, developed a self-fastening skate that could be attached to the skate boot with a spring lever. Called the Star Acme Club skate, it became the favorite of skatists and hockeyists of the time. (Yes, hockey players were known as hockeyists.)

In one of the first marketing brainwaves ever, the Starr manufacturing company paid the 1899 Ladies Hockey Club of Edmonton, Alberta, to be photographed putting on their Starr Acme club skates. 

1899 Edmonton Ladies Hockey Team putting on their Starr Acme Club skates

By 1907, several ladies teams in Saskatchewan, then known as the "Breadbasket of the Prairies" had joined the fun. Several teams existed with exciting names like the Biggar Floradoras, the Saskatchewan Prairie Lillies, the Snowflakes, the Golden Girls and the Old Hens, but I was only able to find a photograph showing the 1907 Prince Albert Tumblers. Although their name is whimsical, they look like serious opponents.

1907 Prince Albert Tumblers, Prince Albert Saskatchewan.  
More information about women's hockey in Saskatchewan can be found in the book, Hockey Heritage: 88 Years of Puck Chasing in Saskatchewan, Brenda Zeman, and the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, 1983

In the early 1900's, Banff in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and British Columbia, was trying to build its reputation as a place of winter fun. It's annual winter festival brought outdoor enthusiasts from all over to compete in a variety of events. Ladies hockey was one of the first to be included as shown in this next 1911 outdoor rink photo with Mount Rundle in the background.

1911 Women's Hockey Match in Banff, Alberta
In 1916, two owners of men's teams in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association spoke of organizing an international women's league. It didn't come into fruition until Feb 1921 when 3 teams competed. My research dug up images of the Vancouver Amazons, but not on the other 2 teams: the Seattle Vamps, nor the Victoria Kewpies. For more information on these teams, check out the webpage, Women and Hockey Post War.

These next two images of the Vancouver Amazons shows the difference a successful year can make in the world of sports, especially when men buy the uniforms.

1920 Vanouver Amazons Ladies Hockey Team

1921 Vancouver Amazons Ladies Hockey Team at Banff Winter Festival

Meanwhile in the east, ladies' colleges had been in training and playing hockey for years on both inside and outside rinks.

March 1906, Ottawa Ladies' College hockey group, Ottawa, Ontario. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada

Queen's University hockey team, Kingston, Ontario, 1917

One important fact to note about the women's hockey team from Queen's University is that it is the birthplace of the hockey goalie face mask. 

Although many attribute Jacques Plante of the Montreal Canadiens as being the one who made wearing a face mask trendy, and others go back earlier to 1930 when Clint Benedict of the Montreal Maroons wore a mask to cover up a broken nose, the truth is that a woman beat them both to the mark. 

Queen's University goalie, Elizabeth Graham, first wore a fencing mask to protect her dental work in 1927. This is corroborated by an article by Elizabeth's grandson, reporter Stewart Bell, who wrote a National Post article on Dec 14, 2008 which states, 
"I picked up a copy of The Hockey News the other day and there, on page 25, was an old black-and-white photograph of my grandmother, wearing goalie pads and a striped hockey sweater.
It described how, while playing for Queen's University in 1927, grandmother shocked fans by wearing a mask.
"The first hockey netminder interested in saving face looks to have been Elizabeth Graham," the (Hockey News) article reads. "It would appear the father of the goalie mask was in fact a woman."

1926 Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario. Courtesy of www.hockeygods.com

Accordingly, there are several other accounts such as this one... "The Montreal Daily Star reported : "The Queen's goaler gave the fans a surprise when she stepped into the nets and then donned a fencing mask. It was safety-first with her and even at that she can't be blamed for her precautionary methods."

But not all hockey was played as part of college or other organized teams. Sometimes, teams played for fun such as this last photo involving a 1921 game of shinny at Dufferin Park in Toronto. 

1921 Shinny at Dufferin Park, Toronto, Ontario

According to the Team USA History of Women's Hockey page, the first instance of American women playing hockey is the entry:
"1920s - College teams form in both the U.S. and Canada."

Unfortunately, there are no links for further information.

As with everything else, the years of the second world war took its toll on sports and leisure. Women were needed to replace the men who were off fighting for freedom. And when the men returned, they needed the support of their wives and families at home. Although men's hockey returned to a schedule, it would be decades before women's hockey returned as a valued place in not only sports history, but also that of leisure and recreation.

I welcome you to share your views and links concerning the early history of women's hockey. 


As for the giveaway, we're leaving the land of frozen water and heading down to Austin, Texas for the January 15th release of Austen in Austin Volume One.

You might want to leave a comment for a chance to win a digital copy of Austen in Austin if the thought of four novellas set in historical Austin, Texas, and based on Jane Austen's novels appeals to you. Yes, that would be Jane Austen, Texas-style. Yeehaw!!!

For extra chances of winning this giveaway, share this post on Facebook or Twitter and let me know in the comments below.

Please include your email address in your comment so I can contact you if you're the winner.

The winner will receive the digital copy upon release. 

Deadline to enter this draw - Sunday midnight, January 10th.

Check here for info on the novellas included in the Austen in Austin collection. 


Anita Mae Draper's stories are written under the western skies where she lives on the prairie of southeast Saskatchewan with her hubby of 30 plus years and the youngest of their four kids. Anita's first novella, Romantic Refinements, will be released January 2016 in Austen in Austin Volume 1, WhiteFire Publishing. Anita is represented by Mary Keeley of Books & Such Literary Management. You can find Anita Mae at  www.anitamaedraper.com


  1. Interesting post. I imagine the game was far less violent when played by women of that period. Please put me in the drawing for Austen in Austin.

    1. Hello, jubileewriter. One would assume, but the newspapers were calling it a contact sport by 1920 and it appears many of the men who attended wanted to see the ladies be unladylike. That sounds like competition to me.

      You're entered. :) Thanks for sharing.

  2. Anita, you are always the champion of historical post-ers :) Wow. Love it. I loved the switch to bloomers at some point, but mostly I love that girls in dresses felt the desire to go out and have fun too. The best ways to deal with winter are 1) go south 2) find a fun outdoor activity. (I can say that as I live in the snow belt and used to drag a shovel around the fields and creeks looking for a place to skate. Even if it was a five foot strip, it was worth it!

    1. Well, thanks, Deb, and I love that you're biased. :D Great image of you wandering the fields looking for a place to skate. It would make a cute Christmas card.

      And I won't add you to the draw because the others might complain considering your name is on the book. :D

  3. Anita, thank you for this very interesting and thorough post about women's hockey. As a born and raised US southern woman, I've had little knowledge of hockey. The photos you provided are so intriguing, and I can't imagine women playing in those long, voluminous skirts! Seems like they'd trip on them. Also, I had no idea how the Stanley Cup originated, so thanks for enlightening me.

    1. You're very welcome, Marilyn. I know I'd be tripping and ripping with a skirt that long, too.

      Thanks for sharing. :)

  4. I had no given woman's hockey much thought.. I found that very interesting, I think I would have insisted on a face mask too !

    1. Yes, Deanna. It seems so reasonable to us, doesn't it?

      Thanks for sharing.

  5. Fascinating post! As a California girl, I rarely put on ice skates. When I do, I wobble a lot!

    As usual, the pictures are wonderful. Thanks!

    1. Well Susie, I've always had skates, and even took it as recreational skating in Grade 5 like every other Canadian kid, but I bet I still wobble more than you.

      And I'm glad you're on the Austen in Austin cover with me and Deb. :)

  6. I've only been coming to HHHistory only recently, and just love it. Fascinating information! I enjoyed every one of the posts so far! Women's hockey! I didn't know it was that popular back then. I played a little hockey when I was little, when it's a sport played in gym, and deemed safe to play in streets with neighboring kids. Now, too many cars, kids are indoors playing video games, doors locked...etc. Oops, off tangent.

    I shared on Google+, Pinterest, Twitter, and FB group, Christian Books Giveaway + Deals: https://www.facebook.com/groups/426961564169538/permalink/436580679874293/

    Annie JC

    1. Oh my goodness, you've been busy, Annie JC. Thanks for sharing that. Extra points for sure!

      And thanks for sharing about your hockey experience. Neighborhoods sure aren't the lively sound of living that they once were. Now the most you hear are vehicles and lawn mowers.

  7. Love the post. kamundsen44ATyahooDOTcom.

  8. How interesting! I'll never forget watching kids playing hockey on the frozen inlet of a lake when I lived in Madison, WI one year. They were so good at it! Thanks for the interesting post and giveaway opportunity. kareinkitsap(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. You're welcome, Karen. Thanks for sharing. You're entered. :)

  9. Anita, thank you for this fascinating post. I enjoyed seeing the photos and the progression of the uniforms. Thanks for the giveaway.

    psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

    1. You're welcome, Caryl. Thanks for entering and sharing. :)

  10. Women's hockey...who knew?? Great bit of history, Anita, thanks for the post :-)

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com
    I've also shared on Facebook & Twitter

    1. Thanks, Trixi. And thanks for sharing on Facebook & Twitter. Putting your entries in the hat. :)

  11. I LOVE the photos you shared! I'm from California so ice skating is such a novelty to me. We got to go while visiting family in Nebraska this Christmas and it was so fun! I love that there is a great history of female hockey teams.

    I shared the giveaway on Twitter!
    colorvibrant at gmail dot com

    1. I'm so glad you had a chance to try ice skating, Heidi, especially at Christmas. I'm hoping to bring more exposure to the Canadian and American women's hockey teams, considering that they work so hard for us at the Olympic and world meets.

      Thanks for sharing on Twitter! Got your entries in. :)

  12. I enjoy historical information and in books. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi, Marilyn. I'm glad you stopped in for a visit and left a comment. :)

  13. My son played hockey during school and my husband enjoys hockey especially the Pittsburgh Penguins. I had no idea women played hockey so long ago and was just fascinated by this information. My husband was very interested in reading your post as well. Thank you for the information. Please enter me for the book it sounds like just what I'm interested in reading. I shared the giveaway on facebook. Thank you Deanne P. Cnnamongirl at aol dot com

    1. Hey, that's good news that you and your husband both enjoyed the post. I like hearing those kinds of comments. :)

      And thanks for sharing the post on facebook. I got your entries in. :)

  14. New to your blog and each post has been so interesting! I've shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Thanks for the giveaway! betherin02 (at) gmail(dot)com

    1. Glad you enjoy the posts, Beth. Comments like yours inspire us to keep posting.

      And thanks for sharing on social media. I've got your entries covered. :)

  15. It's Monday, January 11th and I've just finished doing the giveaway draw on random org.

    The winner of a digital copy of AUSTEN IN AUSTEN Volume 1 is... Deanne Patterson!

    Congrats, Deanne. I'll be in contact with you today to confirm your email address. If you don't hear from me by tomorrow, please email me using my contact page at www.anitamaedraper.com

    Thanks for commenting everyone!