The Start of Women's Rugby

In the fall of 1972, on a gray, drizzly day, the first women’s rugby game in the United States was played between the University of Colorado and Colorado State University.

“At the time, there were very few team sport options for women. For all of us, it was incredible to be on a field, tackling and playing a full-contact team sport.” (Julia Marley, CU)

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It was a new world for women. All of a sudden, it seemed like, ‘Yeah, we can do anything’.

There was a popular song, ‘I Am Woman’—we were all singing that at the top of our lungs when we started the Tufts women’s team. We were very inspired by the Equal Rights Amendment, the 1978 March on Washington, and emerging women leaders like Gloria Steinem. (Mary Money, Tufts University, Beantown and USWNT player)

The history of women’s rugby is a wonderful glimpse into the social history of women in the U.S. during the last 50 years.

Title IX was a tremendous game changer for women’s sports as it prohibited sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving federal financial aid. While many schools simply refused to comply or offered women watered down versions of sport, the door had been flung open.

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NEWSLETTERS

Many teams launched newsletters as a way to communicate. The communication in those days often relied on a typewriter and a mimeograph machine somewhere in the basement of a student life office.  (Click icons for PDFs)

Back in 1972...

Yearly tuition at private university:

(fees, room and board) $3,090

Yearly tuition at a public university:

(fees, room and board) $1,550 

Monthly Rent: $165

Per capita income: $4,880

Adults with a bachelor's degree: 12.0%

PROGRAM COVERS OF TOURNAMENTS

Given the geographic challenges of the early years, women’s rugby relied heavily on tournaments. Players would drive for hours and play up to 4 matches a day often on different teams. These tournaments, often part of men’s tournaments, and always hosted by beer companies, helped elevate the overall quality of play as they exposed women’s teams to different levels and styles of play and allowed women opportunities to share ideas during the many raucous social events.

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