Women’s Hockey in the Jazz Age

Published January 10, 2014 by Kirsten Delegard

On January 10, 1926, these skaters on Lake of the Isles posed, smiling, with hockey sticks. Two of the players were women. This photo–along with many others from the decade–show that young women across the state were picking up sticks and enjoying recreational hockey match-ups. They were never allowed to shed their skirts for hockey pads or warm trousers. Yet the University of Minnesota recognized women’s interest in hockey during the Jazz Age, starting a club hockey team for women students.

World War II interrupted most recreational activities, including hockey. Demobilization brought what Betty Friedan later dubbed the “Feminine Mystique,” an increasingly rigid set of gender roles that emphasized domesticity and femininity for women. As the nation worked to move beyond the crises of war and economic collapse, women were expected to devote themselves to ever-more ambitious homemaking and were forced to give up the autonomy and financial independence they had gained by working in war industries. They were also expected to eschew competitive sports–especially those like ice hockey, which involved physical confrontation. Girls may have skated with their brothers and hit pucks around the city lakes. But their opportunity to compete on ice disappeared, unless they were willing to don figure skates and spangly costumes.

In 1972, Title IX was passed, requiring schools to provide equal athletic opportunities for girls. But it took more than a new law to create equal athletic opportunities for girls and women. Minnesota lagged in this regard, especially with hockey. No college hockey team existed for women in Minnesota until 1995, when Augsburg College put female Auggies on the ice. The University of Minnesota started its women’s hockey team in 1997.

Photo is from the newspaper morgue at the Minneapolis Collection, Hennepin County Central Library. Thanks to Rita Yeada for unearthing this image. And thanks as well to Annika Shiffer-Delegard, who helped me do the research necessary for this post.