Firsts in Women’s Sports History

On Saturday, July 19, the New York Liberty will make history, becoming the first professional basketball team to play a regular season game outdoors when they tip-off against the Indiana Fever. It will also mark the latest landmark in the history of women in sports. In honor of this monumental event, has compiled a list of historic firsts for women in sports.

1722 - British fighter Elizabeth Wilkinson enters the boxing ring.

1784 - Elizabeth Thible of Lyons, France, is the first woman to soar in a hot air balloon.

1804 - Alicia Meynell is the first woman jockey, competing in a four-mile race in York, England.

1805- Englishwoman Alicia Meynell, riding as Mrs. Thornton, defeats a leading male jockey, Buckle, in a race.

1811 - On January 9, the first known women’s golf tournament is held at Musselburgh Golf Club, Scotland, among the town fishwives.

1882 - At the YWCA in Boston, the first athletic games for women are held.

1888 - Berta Benz becomes the first woman to drive on a 60 mile trip cross-country in Germany in a "motor-wagon" (a 3-horse-power car with solid rubber tires) with only her two teenage sons along in August.

1890 - Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochran Seaman) becomes the first woman to travel around the world alone - she does it in just 72 days while a reporter for the New York World newspaper, returning on Jan. 25.

1896 - The first women's intercollegiate basketball championship is played between Stanford and the University of California at Berkley. Stanford wins 2-1 on April 4 before a crowd of 700 women!

1898 - Lizzie Arlington becomes the first woman to sign a professional baseball contract, appearing in her first professional game pitching for the Philadelphia Reserves.

1990 - Julie Inkster of Los Altos, CA, becomes the first woman to win the only professional golf tournament in the world in which women and men compete head-to-head. She wins the Invitational Pro-Am at Pebble Beach in a one-stroke victory.

1997 - The New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks tip-off the first WNBA game at the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles on June-21. Sparks guard Penny Toler scores the league’s first basket at 19:01. New York wins 67-57.

1998 - April Heinrichs, a 1991 Women’s World Cup team member, becomes the first woman named to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

2001 - Ashley Martin becomes the first woman to score points in a Division I football game when she kicks three extra points for Jacksonville State who defeat the Cumberland Bulldogs, 71-10. She is the first woman to play Division I football.

2003 - Canadian Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, 24, becomes the first woman to score a goal in a men's pro hockey game on a backhander for her Finnish League Kirkkonummi Salamat.

2004 - Two years after becoming the first girl in Illinois to dunk a basketball in a high school game, 6-foot-3-inch Candace Parker wins the McDonald's High School All-American dunk contest in Oklahoma City, competing against five boys.

2004 - Ashley McElhiney, 22, becomes the new coach of the expansion Nashville Rhythm of the American Basketball Association, the first female head coach of a professional men's basketball team.

2006 - Sophomore Michaella Hutchinson, Anchorage, AL, becomes the first girl in the nation to win a state high school wrestling title while competing with boys, winning the final in the 103-pound class, 1-0.

2006 - Janet Guthrie is inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame on April 27 as the first woman to compete in the Indianapolis 500 and in the Daytona 500.

2006 - Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt becomes the first women's basketball coach to be paid a million dollars in history. She signs a deal with Tennessee for $1.125 million for next season.

2008 – The New York Liberty and Indiana Fever of the WNBA will play in the first regular season outdoor game in professional basketball history at Arthur Ashe Stadium in the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on July 19.

Click Here for a photo gallery of the most recent firsts in the history of women and sports.

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