born 1868

Frail and dogged by poor health as a child, Senda Berenson Abbott took gymnastics so she would have more energy for her true passions ~ music + art. Instead, the lessons convinced her of the importance of physical education for all girls. 

As a teacher at Smith College, she organized the first collegiate women's basketball game in 1892 according to her own rewritten rules {later published as Basket Ball for Women}. That contest pit freshman girls against sophomores, with the winning team hosting the losers for dinner afterwards. Senda's aim: make sports + exercise part of life, not just for an elite few, but for every woman.

bio bits

her quotes

all quotes by Senda Berenson Abbott (13)

"Cultivate yourselves...If you are interested in vital things outside your work, it will reflect itself in your work."

Cultivate Yourselves | ca. 1890

"Until recent years, the so-called ideal women was a small waisted, small footed, small brained damsel who prided herself on her delicate health, who thought fainting interesting and hysterics fascinating."

Senda Berenson: The Unlikely Founder of Women's Basketball | 1894

"Unless a game as exciting as basket ball is carefully guided by rules as will eliminate roughness, the great desire to win and the excitement of the game will make our women do sadly unwomanly things."

Basket Ball for Women | june 1899

"We need to cultivate the spirit that fair play comes first—defeat or victory afterwards."

Basket Ball for Women | june 1899

"Rough and vicious play seems worse in women than in men. A certain amount of roughness is deemed necessary to bring out the manliness in our young men. Surely rough play can have no possible excuse in our young women."

Basket Ball for Women | june 1899

"I know an unusually fine man and splendid teacher who was thrown out of a college mainly because he would not pass foot ball men who did bad academic work. Shall we allow these most undesirable factors to come into women's athletics in the face of what men have experienced?"

Together with formal gym ... | ca. 1892 - 1920

"Americans have forgotten how to play. We take life seriously, hard, dismally ... whatever we do we do it in order to win."

Working Girls | ca. 1892 - 1920

"It is a stupid truism today that so much of the success of life depends on our well-being ~ yet how few appreciate the dire necessity of working for health."

The Ideal of Physical Training | ca. 1892 - 1920

"The great evil in our athletics today is that we lose sight of all things except the desire to win—to win by fair means or foul—to beat the other side. Hence the importance of the recreation side—the joy in playing—is entirely lost."

Athletics for Women | ca. 1892 - 1920

"A sound body will do more to create a sane, normal, joyous aspect toward life than sermons and philosophy."

Examination of Children | ca. 1892 - 1920

"Of all times and places the summer and a camp are most ideal for the playing of games. It is then one can catch the spirit of play ~ one can then play all day with a clear conscience."

Basket Ball for Girls' Camp | june 1915

"Worry is the great uglifier of the body and soul. Seek after cheerfulness—laugh and grow fat—put all the brightness into life that is possible."

The Importance of Sleep | ca. 1892 - 1920

"One can develop beauty of body and soul. We may not all be beautiful young girls, but it is our fault if we do not become beautiful old ladies."

Examination of Children | ca. 1892 - 1920
  • Quotabelle profile
  • Senda Berenson Abbott

curated with care by Kathleen Murray {september 2014}