Barbara Howard, a sprinter, was the first Black female athlete to compete internationally for Canada, when she participated in the 1938 Empire Games. Photo: City of Vancouver Archives / Public Domain
The Grads are a phenomenal story but are not the only story to consider when thinking about women, basketball and sport. In Canada, white women, like the Grads, were the first group of women to be accepted in playing organized sports at an amateur level on a national and international stage. As a result much of the mainstream historical record reflects only their experiences in participation. Yet many marginalized groups of women such as Indigenous, racialized, and women with a physical disability who have a rich history of playing and competing in sport, do not have the same amount of historic record available. Much more research and work needs to be done to capture the historical experiences of these women. These communities of women were playing sport despite not having the same opportunities and were not welcome to access mainstream sport organizations. Their stories and successes not only speak of the love of sport but perseverance and dedication while facing systemic racism and barriers.
The period in which the Grads played amateur basketball (1920-1940), it was accessible only for white women. On the other hand, track and field and baseball were two sports that provided greater inclusion opportunities for all women in Canada.
Girls’ softball team at Old Sun Residential School, Gleichen, Alberta, 1940s. Photo: Anglican Church of Canada, General Synod Archives, P75-103-S7-202.