Historical Timeline for Dust Bowl Girls
1891 – 1932
Girls and women flock to the sport in sometimes greater numbers than boys and men, shocking physical educators. Women’s Basket Ball Rules Committee adopts Senda Berenson’s three-court rules as official rules for women’s basketball with 5-10 players on each court division. Spalding Athletic publishes its first official Basket Ball for Women, with Berenson as the editor. (Photo shows Smith College class of 1902 basketball team. Click the photo to view the source.)
Oklahoma becomes a state on November 16. (Photo shows 1889 Oklahoma Land Rush.)
Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls (OPC) in Durant, Oklahoma is established. Previously operating under the name of the Calvin Institute, the school began in 1894 as a result of of the activities of a Presbyterian missionary to the Choctaw Nation. OPC also houses a primary and secondary school that educates primarily Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole children free of charge.
The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) opens sports competition to women (including women’s basketball) and sends a track-and-field contingent of top athletes drawn from the secondary schools and the industrial sports league to the Women’s World Games in Paris. The games are very popular, and the AAU begins to sponsor more women’s athletics.
In response to the growing popularity of the AAU and female athletics, Lou Henry Hoover, wife of Herbert Hoover, establishes the Women’s Division of the National Amateur Athletic Federation, known simply as Women’s Division. Hoover and other leaders of women’s physical education departments at colleges and universities forge a united front against all forms of highly competitive sports for girls and women. They believe that the hard play during extreme competition threatens the female athlete’s moral and physical well-being, and that it’s unbecoming for young ladies to work up a good sweat in front of a crowd of onlookers. (Photo shows Lou Henry Hoover. Click on the photo for the source.)
Ignoring the admonishments of the Women’s Division, the AAU sponsors the first-ever National women’s Basketball Championship held in Los Angeles.
1927 & 1928
Hoover’s powerful Women’s Division successfully pressures the AAU to cancel the National Women’s Basketball Tournament; being properly defiant, the AAU appoints Dallas Sunoco Oilers national champions.
The stock market crashes on October 24. By October 29 – Black Tuesday – stocks will completely collapse, causing banks to call in loans. Millions lose their jobs. (Photo shows crowd gathered on Wall Street after the 1929 crash. Click to see source.)
The AAU selects its first All American women’s basketball team.
Sam Babb is hired as psychology professor and coach of the Cardinals’ basketball team at Oklahoma Presbyterian College.
Drought becomes severe in the Great Plains. Oklahoma is the first state in the nation to get the federal drought money for loans to farmers.
Babb recruits high school sharpshooter Doll Harris from Cement, Oklahoma.
Babe Didrikson is hired as a secretary at Employers Casualty Insurance Company in Dallas to lead the Dallas Golden Cyclones, the basketball team sponsored by Employers Casualty.
The drought worsens and dust from the over-plowed and over-grazed land begins to blow. Food riots begin to break out in parts of the U.S.
March: Babe Didrikson leads the Dallas Golden Cyclones to the AAU national basketball championship.
Summer: Babb and the other members of the AAU women’s basketball rules committee successfully argue for a new rule: guarding on any plane. To be implemented in 1932, the rule change will make the women’s game much more exciting.
July: Texas and Oklahoma battle over rights to the Red River Toll Bridge.
August: Thirty-five young basketball recruits — including Lucille Thurman, Coral Worley, and Hazel Vickers — arrive at Oklahoma Presbyterian College with big hopes for the 1931-32 season.
December 21: The OPC Cardinals begin their historic, two-week barnstorm, playing games across Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. They travel in an old and unreliable crank-start bus.
Fourteen dust storms are reported this year. The national unemployment rate is 23.6%. Oklahoma’s is at 30%.
January: Congress establishes the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) to lend $2 billion to banks, insurance companies, and other credit organizations.
February 10: The OPC Cardinals play Babe Didrikson’s team, the Dallas Golden Cyclones, for the first time.
February 11: OPC receives its invitation to the AAU national tournament.
March: Babb learns of OPC’s dire financial problems.
March 20: OPC arrives in Shreveport, LA for the AAU national tournament.
This timeline reflects certain specific events surrounding the story of Dust Bowl Girls. For more complete timelines about women’s basketball, the Dust Bowl, or the Great Depression, check out those listed here. Sources: PBS Timeline of the Great Depression and Surviving the Dust Bowl; Women’s Hoops Blog: Women’s Basketball Timeline; Anne Semple’s Ties That Bind: The Story of Oklahoma Presbyterian College (n.d., ca. 1957); Hard Times in Oklahoma: The Depression Years, ed. Kenneth E. Hendrickson Jr. (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1983)