Above: the figure in white is believed to be Isobel Stanley from about 1890.
A HUNDRED-AND-TWENTY-FIVE years ago today (1889), thirteen-year-old Isobel Stanley organized and played in the first recorded all-female hockey game. She was the daughter of Lord Frederick Arthur Stanley, famed for donating the 35-pound silver cup that has been presented to the National Hockey League champion every year since 1926.
Isobel and her brothers fell in love with hockey as youngsters and talked their dad into creating the Stanley Cup, arguably most famous of all professional sports trophies, in 1892. From 1892 to 1925, the Stanley Cup was presented annually to the best amateur hockey team in Canada.
In 1889 or so (some sources offer different dates), Isobel’s Government House team played and defeated another women’s team in what is thought to be the first all-female hockey game ever played.
On marriage Isobel Stanley took the last name Gathorne-Hardy. In 2000, Canada introduced the Isobel Gathorne-Hardy Award, presented every year to a female athlete who embodies the values of leadership and sportsmanship.
Above: Tracy Sims (second from left) with other members of the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination.
ON THIS DATE 50 years ago (1964), eighteen-year-old Tracy Sims led a demonstration at the Sheraton-Palace Hotel. The protest targeted the lack of minority hiring by San Francisco hotels and resulted in the police dragging her and 166 others to jail for disturbing the peace.
One San Francisco Examiner columnist grumbled that Sims, an African American, lacked the qualifications to lead such a protest. Can “Negro leaders really expect to be taken seriously when they allow themselves to be represented in their struggle by an eighteen-year-old girl in the full flush of adolescent arrogance?” wrote Charles Denton.
The protest resulted in the city’s mayor, John Shelly, pulling Sims, plus a lawyer for the Hotel Owners Association, and others into his office to settle the dispute. Sims, Roy Ballard, and the hotels’ lawyer wound up signing a nondiscrimination policy by 33 hotels that established a goal of 15 to 20 percent minority employees at the hotels, inspections to determine compliance, and amnesty for the demonstrators — a huge victory for Sims and the other protesters.
ON THIS DATE in 1976, seventeen-year-old Wilfred Benitez won the World Boxing Association junior welterweight title with a split-decision victory over Antonio Cervantes, making him the youngest-ever professional boxing champion.
Benitez moved up in weight and won the World Boxing Council’s welterweight championship in 1979 and the WBC’s light middleweight championship in 1981. He possessed a knack for making opponents miss, thus his nickname of El Radar, but by his mid-twenties he had taken his share of blows, and it showed. At age thirty-two, Benitez retired from boxing and soon entered a Puerto Rican nursing home. A neurologist diagnosed El Radar with a degenerative brain condition called post-traumatic encephalitis, aka “the boxer’s disease,” caused by the punches he took in the ring.
ON THIS DATE in 1770, British troops shot and killed seventeen-year-olds Samuel Maverick and James Caldwell, plus three others, in what came to be called the Boston Massacre.
According to Founding Father John Adams, the “foundation of American independence was laid” this day. Samuel Adams, John’s second cousin, held a public funeral for the five victims and John Hancock urged parents to tell children about the killings until “tears of pity glisten in their eyes, and boiling passion shakes their tender frames.” Dr. Joseph Warren later mourned this time when “our streets were stained with the BLOOD OF OUR BRETHERN” (sic), and “our ears were wounded by the groans of the dying.”
The Boston Massacre may have inflamed anti-British and pro-independence sentiments in America, but it’s not like the Redcoats were unprovoked. Around 60 Bostonians surrounded nine British guards on that chilly night, hurling insults, rocks, and snowballs. At some point a British private Matthew Killroy fired his rifle, mortally wounding Samuel Gray. More shots followed, resulting in the deaths of Patrick Carr and former slave Crispus Attucks as well as Maverick and Caldwell.
Maverick has been depicted as an innocent in the slaughter. An apprentice carpenter or dentist (stories differ), he came late to the ruckus and pushed through the crowd at the wrong time, although some claim he yelled, “Fire away, you damned lobsterbacks!” right before Private Killroy obliged with a shot that went through the teenager’s belly; Maverick died the next day. Caldwell, a sailor, took two shots in the back. A third seventeen-year-old, Christopher Monk, received disabling injuries from a musket shot and died one year later.
John Adams defended the British soldiers in court. A jury convicted two of the shooters, Matthew Killroy and Hugh Montgomery, of manslaughter. Their punishment: a branding on the right thumb.
Above: Massachusetts militiamen confront strikers during the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike.
ON THIS DATE in 1912, 30,000 mostly immigrant textile mill workers won national sympathy for their strike when a partly bald fourteen-year-old from Lawrence, Massachusetts, told a U.S. Congressional hearing about the workplace accident that nearly took her life. The twelfth child called before the panel, Camella (sometimes spelled Carmela) Teoli described starting at the American Woolen Company at age thirteen and losing part of her scalp when her hair got caught in a textile machine two weeks later. The girl, along with two pieces of her sliced-off scalp, had to be rushed to a hospital, where she remained for seven months.
Testifying before Congress was no easy task for Teoli, according to grandson Frank Palumbo Jr., author of 2011’s Through Carmela’s Eyes. He told NECM.com that his grandmother’s home was fire bombed and thugs who wished to prevent the family from letting Teoli testify beat his great-grandfather. Palumbo said Helen Taft, first lady to the president, took the girl to the White House and tried to ease her
Bruce Watson, author of Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream (2006) found that Teoli’s courage before Congress played well in Washington. “Gradually it dawned on the panel that these were not children at all … but apprentice adults who had left childhood at the mill gates,” he wrote. The press picked up Teoli’s story and public sentiment swung to the strikers, who had been attacked by police serving the interests of mill owners before the congressional hearings took place. The owners eventually agreed to raise wages, pay overtime, and rehire the strikers.
Above: Chris Ernst reads a statement to Yale’s Joni Barnett on March 3, 1976.
YALE’S MALE ROWERS called their female counterparts “sweat hogs” in the mid-70s because the women, with limited access to post-practice showers, had to sit in their hot, smelly outfits for a half hour or more after workouts.
Chris Ernst, nineteen-year-old captain of the women’s rowing team, decided enough was enough on March 3, 1976. Title IX, an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1972, prohibited discrimination based on gender at U.S. schools and colleges, so Ernst arranged a demonstration in which she and 18 other female rowers marched into the office of Joni Barnett, Yale’s director of women’s athletics, and stripped to the waist. Written in blue marker on their bare chests and backs were five letters and two Roman numerals: “Title IX.”
The protest generated national publicity due to the presence of a reporter from The New York Times who wrote about the demonstration and repeated Chris’ statement that “These are the bodies Yale is exploiting.” Within two weeks, Yale’s female rowers had new locker rooms and shower facilities, and the attention they received advanced the cause of equal athletic rights for females throughout the U.S.
ON THIS DATE in 1955, fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin refused to surrender her Montgomery, Alabama, bus seat to a white passenger. This occurred nearly nine months before Rosa Parks did the same thing, with different results. Parks’ defiance of a law requiring black passengers to give up seats to white passengers involved no violence and made her an admired figure in the civil rights movement. Colvin’s refusal to move resulted in a physical struggle with two white policemen who kicked her, slapped handcuffs on her, and verbally abused her. The high school junior was later convicted of violating the bus segregation law, disturbing the peace, and assaulting the two policemen.
Colvin’s family stood by her after the arrest, as did her pastor. “I’m so proud of you,” said the Reverend H.H. Johnson, as quoted in Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Phillip Hoose, 2009). “I think you just brought the revolution to Montgomery.” Classmates at Booker T. Washington were less gracious. Many mocked her in the hallways by chanting, “It’s my constitutional right! It’s my constitutional right!” — words Colvin had spoken during her arrest. “We should have been rallying around her and being proud of what she had done, but instead we ridiculed her,” one of her classmates said five decades later.
Some Montgomery citizens admired Colvin’s stand against racial injustice, including a white woman supporter who said, “I just can’t explain how this little girl was so brave … it was a miracle.” More than six months after Colvin’s arrest another black teenager, Mary Louise Smith, refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus, and 41 days after that, police arrested Parks. That arrest brought about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and resulted in a 1956 Supreme Court decision declaring racial segregation on public transport unconstitutional.
Fred Gray, a lawyer who represented both Colvin and Parks, said, “I don’t mean to take anything away from Mrs. Parks, but Claudette gave us all the moral courage to do what we did.”