Invented by McGill alumni Dr. James Naismith in 1891, the game of basketball was originally imagined as an indoor ball game for boys and men. As early as 1892, however, American women began playing the game, and in 1899, the first known instance of women’s basketball took place in Canada (Hall 31). This game did not resemble twenty-first century women’s basketball. Nor did it resemble men’s turn of the twentieth century basketball. This is because physical educators adjusted Naismith’s original rules to better suit the perceived capacities and limitations of women’s bodies. These modified rules played a key role in shaping the distinct and complex history of women’s basketball in Canada. Using the methods of performance studies, this talk draws attention to the important collections of materials —including scrapbooks, meeting notes, and team photographs — that offer insight into the early history of women’s basketball at McGill and in Canada. More specifically, Dr. Blair will use these materials to examine how the rules influenced the playing of basketball in Canada and to investigate how a rule that originally emerged to confine women’s bodies in the context of women’s basketball may function to empower twenty-first century female basketball players.
Kelsey Blair (B.A., University of British Columbia; M.A. University of Toronto; M.A. University of British Columbia; PhD Simon Fraser University) is a theatre, performance, and physical culture scholar, young adult fiction author, and community-engaged artist and activist. She recently completed her PhD in English with an emphasis in Performance Studies from Simon Fraser University and is currently a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of English at McGill. She is also a young adult fiction author who has published four sport fiction novels for girls, a Director of the Steering Committee for the Centre for Spectatorship, the curator of the Activist Classroom, a community-engaged theatre & performance artist and activist, and a director on multiple not-for-profit Boards.