The history of Lincoln athletics: Women’s tennis


Courtesy of the June 1926 issue of The Cardinal

The 1926 Lincoln tennis team. According to Lincoln’s publication archive, Lincoln tennis has existed as a major sport in Lincoln since 1916, but it wasn’t until 1928 that two separate gender-specific teams were created.

Savanna Kenney

The first mention of a tennis team with female players dates back to Lincoln’s June 1916 issue of The Cardinal, a former Lincoln publication. Mentions of the tennis team in the early 1920’s imply a co-ed team, with female and male players, as opposed to separate “girl’s” and “boy’s” teams.

In the early 1900’s, issues of The Cardinal did not classify tennis as a girl’s sport, even though the team had female players. 

By 1917, girl’s basketball was the only sport to be classified as a girl’s sport. The tennis team consisted of female players, but was not recognized to the same degree.

 In the 1917 June issue of The Cardinal, a student wrote, “Now it is up to you, girls of Lincoln, to support girls’ basket-ball, so that the only girl’s sport in the school may survive.”An examination of Lincoln yearbooks revealed that, by 1928, Lincoln tennis had adopted the term “girl’s tennis team,” indicating two separate gender-specific teams.

As early as 1916, Lincoln’s tennis team competed in mixed doubles matches, where a male and female played together.

“In the first place, we have as headliners our peerless mixed-doubles team, Riggs and Stevens,” the 1916 issue of The Cardinal stated. “Of course, this racquet wielding duo was expected to make a big racket this season, as they were the ones who served up enough ‘twisters’ during the 1916 campaign to knock ’em all dead.” 

In the 1920’s, issues of The Cardinal contained sexist comments towards female tennis players.

Josephine Slater, one of Lincoln’s most popular members of the weaker (?) sex, represented the school in her final term on the tennis team,” wrote a student in the June 1926 issue.

Blurbs about male players often consisted of game highlights or plans for college. However, female players were classified as feminine socialites, and their popularity was highlighted.

According to Lincoln’s publication archive, Lincoln tennis has existed as a major sport in Lincoln since 1916, when the June issue of The Cardinal first mentions the team.