Origin of Women’s Lacrosse
The first-ever recorded women’s lacrosse contest was played in Scotland
— By Jane Claydon
St. Leonards School, in St Andrews, Scotland claims to be the first girls’ school to have played lacrosse in 1890.
1890 St. Leonards Women’s Lacrosse Team
(courtesy St. Leonards Historical Archives)
The first Headmistress, Miss Lumsden, watched a game played in Canada, in 1884, between the Canghuwaya Indians and the Montreal Club, in Montreal and thought it “beautiful and graceful.” As a result the game was introduced at the school.
A girl, writing in student magazine, reported details of the very first lacrosse match at St. Leonards on March 27th 1890: “After our crosses having undergone a severe inspection i.e. our referee holding them up one by one and squinting with one eye to see if that which ought to be plane surface was not a curved one. Our referee said it was time to begin, but, owing to the absence of the ball it was rather difficult for the order to be carried out. However, the ball was duly found & after ‘123 Play’ had been called, a vigorous game began.”
An official account of this first game indicated: “Whether the game on the whole has proved successful may be doubted, but at least we advanced so far in its mysteries as to get a good and exciting game in the matches. They were played in the field with teams of eight, and they lasted one hour, not including a ten minutes’ interval in the middle, after which goals were changed.”
The number of players increased to ten in 1895 and by 1913 there were twelve players, known by the positions in use today. The players used long sticks with short handles.
Women's Players Chronology
||Positions and Notations
||4 forwards, 4 backs, centre and goals. (The word “goals” was used at this time.)
||Full forward, second home, right attack, left attack, centre, right defence, left defence, cover point, full back and goals.
||As above but use of the term “goals” was replaced by the word goalkeeper.
||First home and cover point were added.
||As above with the addition of third home and third man.
Seniors (alumni) of St Leonards introduced lacrosse to schools in the south of England, specifically Wycombe Abbey School in 1896 and Roedean School in 1902.
Bedford Physical Training College and Madame Bergman Österberg’s College of Physical Education in England added lacrosse to their programs in 1903/04 with the help of some of their students who had played at school. Trained teachers then introduced the game into their schools.
Initially lacrosse was a school based game and clubs followed later. The first club to be founded was the Southern Ladies Club in England in 1905.
The Ladies Lacrosse Association was founded in England in 1912 and international matches began in the following year. The “Standard” newspaper, dated April 18th 1913, stated that “in the very first international lacrosse match, held at Richmond, Scotland beat Wales 11 goals to 2.”
The Scottish Ladies Lacrosse Association was founded in 1920 and at that stage international matches with England were placed on an official footing. Wales and then Ireland founded their organisations in 1930.
Rosabelle Sinclair, an alumnus of St Leonards and a former Scottish lacrosse player, was instrumental in establishing the game of lacrosse for women in the United States.
Despite earlier attempts by other enthusiasts, it was not until Rosabelle started a girls’ high school team in 1926, at Bryn Mawr School, in Baltimore, that lacrosse became popular in other nearby schools. The United States formed their organisation, the USWLA, in 1931.
Lacrosse was played by women in Victoria, Australia, in 1936 but it was not until 1962 that they founded their national organisation, the Australian Women’s Lacrosse Council. Canada selected an international team in 1982 to take part in the first World Lacrosse Tournament which took place in Nottingham, England.