One year ago, The U.S. Women’s Rugby Foundation (USWRF) launched a three-year project to gather, digitize and archive the artifacts and stories of women’s rugby in the United States. In the past year we’ve collected, coded and digitized over 7,000 pages including:
Complete collection of In Support (first women’s rugby magazine)
Complete collection of In Touch
Rugby Magazines 1975-2001
Early organizing documents from Women’s Committee
Documents detailing the founding of the women’s club and collegiate nationals
Information about 418 women’s teams in 50 states
The goal of all this collecting is to create a permanent, publicly accessible archive in the Library of Congress’ collection of Social History and the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Archives.
In addition, in the coming year we will be building an online museum, housed on the USWRF website, full of photos, correspondence, oral histories, and film clips. We’ll also construct customized, pop-up museums at events and other women’s rugby-related gatherings. The first one will be exhibited at the 2022 WRCRA Conference and will feature 2-D and 3-D artifacts. We will be looking for early jerseys, t-shirts, programs, posters, trophies, pins, and assorted memorabilia that show the color and vibrancy of the time. Please keep a lookout for our nagging emails and posts.
Sorting through your old memories has been interesting work. Not surprisingly, we have received documents in varied forms and while some are well-preserved, others reflect years of storage in garages and attics, leaving material tattered or faded. The fact is, these items are important and we don’t want to lose them but we feel as if we are in a race against time and mildew.
Creating a permanent archive
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. The first 2 women’s teams in the U.S., Colorado State University and the University of Colorado, were formed in 1971 and played their first match in 1972. It’s worth noting that a few short months before that game, June 23, 1972, Congress enacted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX was revolutionary at the time as it prohibited sex discrimination in any educational program or activity receiving any type of federal financial aid. Schools could no longer dismiss women's interest in sport - an educational program long reserved for men - and they had to create ‘equitable opportunities.’ While many schools refused to comply or offered women watered down versions of sport, women were not sitting and waiting for permission to play. It's not surprising that when free to play sport some women chose to play the sport with the toughest reputation: rugby. In some ways, it was a big middle finger to those who had long excluded women from equal opportunity. That revolutionary spirit can be seen in the growth of women's rugby throughout the 1970’s. While there were only 2 women’s clubs in 1972, there were 6 in 1973, 29 in 1974 and by 1975 there were 53 women’s clubs in the U.S., and the vast majority were college teams.
The 50 year trajectory of women’s rugby is deeply connected to the history of sport, women’s rights, women’s organizing, and LQBTQ+ history. It’s critical that we all chip in to collect and preserve documents, photographs, oral histories and memorabilia that accurately and broadly tell the history of women’s rugby in the United States and by extension, the history of women. At the very least, it’s important that we recognize and celebrate those pioneering women and men who laid the foundation for rugby to flourish in the U.S.
1973 - The Eleanors
What We Need
We really need your help. We are sending out a bat signal to the entire women’s rugby community to help preserve our history. We have a strong foundation of materials from the 1970’s and 1980’s and we are now focusing our energies on the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Specifically, we are looking for a range of artifacts to digitize and exhibit, such as:.
Documentation - tournament programs, newspaper articles, club/team notes and governance documents, letters and communication, old team films etc. (Names and contacts of early women administrators, team founders, coaches and referees)
Photographs - photographs with good resolution, negatives or digitized photographs.
Oral History - if teams have collected oral histories or video histories or have suggestions for someone we should record please contact us.
Unique rugby artifacts - materials (jerseys, trophies, quilts, etc.) please include an explanation of the artifact including names, dates, anything of personal meaning that gives depth to an experience
The USWRF History Project is dependent upon the generosity of the rugby community. All documents sent to us will be inventoried, coded, digitized and archived and returned to the owner in good condition. We seek to preserve and build a vivid and accurate account of the growth of girls and women’s rugby in the U.S. Please, take a look in your attic, basement, garage and revisit that bin of old programs, photos, newsletters, song books, newspaper articles, t-shirts, jerseys and trophies. For many of you, those are treasured, personal memories but they are also part of a larger historical story; an important story worth telling well.
Want to Help?
If you would like to be work with the project we are looking for the following:
Collections and Digitization Intern (2+ years experience, in process of library science or similar degree)
Collecting and recording oral histories (experience with video, audio recordings encouraged)
Help designing the Pop-Up Museum (experience in design work, museum studies preferred)
Grant writer (experience with grants for public library creation a plus)
Donations. Contact us about a named gift.
Thank you for helping us preserve our important history!