Love the Lady Bears? Ever wonder about the beginnings of women’s athletics at Baylor? Well, we have a book for you!
We have many researchers visit The Texas Collection who are working on book projects, and we are always so excited when we hear one has been completed. Dr. Nancy Goodloe, emeritus professor of health education at Baylor, visited our collection several times while working on Before Brittney: A Legacy of Champions. Her recently published book explores the path from the first female varsity letter winners in 1904—and then there were no more varsity letters awarded to women until 1976—to the national prominence Baylor women’s athletics enjoys today.
Goodloe, a former Bearette, coach, and athletic trainer in the women’s programs (1965-76), places Baylor’s story in the national context of struggles for women’s intercollegiate athletics. At The Texas Collection, Goodloe drew on the Olga Fallen papers, presidential records, Lariats, Round-Ups, and our photograph files. She also interviewed various coaches, athletes, and other people who witnessed the development of women’s athletics at Baylor.
Interested in hands-on exploration of women’s athletics at Baylor? Check out our blog post on the Olga Fallen papers and Flickr sets here, here, and here on women’s basketball, and there are some good tennis photos too. And then there are the athletics photos we’ve put on our Texas Collection photos page on Baylor’s digital collections site. But these online resources are just the tip of the iceberg, so come and do some research with us at The Texas Collection!
Processing archival collections is one of our central activities at The Texas Collection. In archivist lingo, “processing” means to enhance access to our records through arrangement and description. Archives are different from books—they usually don’t have a title page, table of contents, or an index to tell you about the contents. And they’re often messy.
Sometimes collections come to us in good order, with everything beautifully organized. However, it’s probably more common that we receive records that appear to have been boxed up with no particular order. In these cases, it’s our job to discern and implement an organizing principle, then to describe the arrangement and the records in what we call a finding aid. That way researchers have a good idea of what they might expect to find in an archives and can plan their projects accordingly.
The Texas Collection’s finding aids are posted on our website by subject and alphabetically. We’re in the process of upgrading our arrangement and description procedures to comply with Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), and we’re working with catalogers at Baylor’s Moody Library to get our finding aids into BearCat (Baylor’s central catalog) too.
All this to say, we want you to know about our most recently processed collections! So we’re adding “Research Ready” as a monthly feature of “Blogging about Texas.” Each month, we will post a processing update to notify our readers about the latest collections that have finding aids online and are primed for research. Here’s the scoop for May:
Olga Fallen Papers: The Olga Fallen Collection contains material accumulated during her years at Baylor University as women’s athletic coordinator, basketball and softball coach, and professor. The items include correspondence, financial, photographic, and organizational material. The bulk of the collection relates to basketball. (See our blog post for more detail.)
James Warren Smith Sr. Papers: The James Warren Smith Sr. Papers consist of a diary, scrapbooks, and literary productions. The scrapbooks contain many photographs. Smith was a Texas Ranger in the early 1900s.
Fred Bell Papers: The Fred Bell Papers consist of one manuscript, an enfranchisement oath for African-American Fred Bell, living in Travis County, Texas.
You can see how wide and varied The Texas Collection’s holdings are! These records—and the finding aids we have online—are just a small representation of the thousands of collections we preserve for future researchers. We’re working hard to make our collections more visible and hope that one of them will spark your interest!
Before Baylor University had the Lady Bears, we had the Bearettes, and before Kim Mulkey, there was Olga Fallen. When Fallen came to Baylor in September 1956, her specialties were dance and swimming. Yet over the course of her career at Baylor, she taught and coached women—then called the Bearettes—in sports ranging from bowling to tennis, and she served as the head basketball and softball coach from 1974–79.
Most importantly, however, she forged the trail for women’s athletics in the newly created role of Women’s Athletics Coordinator from 1972–79. Scholars interested in women’s athletics, Title IX, and more will find a great resource in the Olga Fallen papers, which are nearly ready for research use here at The Texas Collection.
Fallen served during a dynamically changing period for women’s athletics. When she started at Baylor as an assistant professor of physical education, the women’s athletics program resided solely in the physical education department—Athletics with a capital “A” was for men. Then the equal rights movement came along in the 1970s to advocate for equality between the sexes, and Title IX was enacted to give women’s athletic programs an equal share of the resources needed to function on an equal level with the men’s programs.
Fallen was in the right place at the right time to promote her passion for women’s sports. Women’s athletics at Baylor (and many other universities) historically had less coaching staff, financial resources, facilities, and scholarship opportunities than did the men’s sports program. The work to level the playing field was difficult—many objected that Title IX would cause athletic programs to go broke. Fallen’s reply in a 1975 interview was that “the bill [Title IX] means women should get equal opportunity, not equal funding… If they gave me the same amount of money that they gave the men, I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
Fallen definitely was accustomed to working on a slim budget—when Fallen began her responsibilities at Baylor, the women’s athletics department ran on a budget of a mere $750. But by 1979, when Fallen left her position as athletic coordinator and coaching duties, the department operated on a budget of tens of thousands of dollars, according to an April 4, 1979 article in the Baylor Lariat. Additionally, by this time the women had their own practice field and gym, the Rena Marrs McLean Gymnasium.
But Fallen wasn’t just an administrator. As a coach, Fallen had a history of success in winning games and in recruiting some top players to the Baylor women’s sports program. For example, in 1973, the first scholarship was given to a female athlete at Baylor University—Suzie Snider Eppers, who came from nearby Robinson High School. Eppers finished her four years at Baylor with an accumulated 3,861 points and was named to Kodak’s All-American team. In doing so, she became the university’s first basketball All-American since 1948. From 1972–1978, Fallen’s win/loss record for the women’s basketball team was an impressive 140-47. Additionally, the team made several trips to the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women) basketball nationals during this period.
Forty years after Title IX and after years of striving to achieve equality in women’s sports, the Lady Bears across Baylor Athletics have gone above and beyond, showing the strong foundation Fallen lay for women’s athletics. With the Lady Bears Basketball team’s 40-0 win/loss record and NCAA National Championship, and the Equestrian Hunter Seat team’s NCEA National Championship, 2012 is off to a great start. Olga Fallen would be so proud of today’s Lady Bears!
If you’re interested in a quick history of the Lady Bears basketball team, Texas Monthly wrote one after the 2005 championship. Olga Fallen got things started for women’s basketball at Baylor, but it hasn’t been an easy road. And see the Flickr slideshow below for more photos! (Mouse over the picture and click in the bottom right corner to make the slideshow full-screen.)
Update (May 7, 2012): The finding aid for the Olga Fallen Collection [PDF] is complete! Check it out to get an idea of the kinds of materials you might find in her papers.
Update #2 (May 11, 2012): Dr. Nancy Goodloe, a former Bearette, coach, and athletic trainer in the women’s programs (1965-76), is working on a book about the development of the women’s intercollegiate athletic program at Baylor University. She’s doing research at The Texas Collection but also wants to hear from fellow Bearettes and Lady Bears of the 1970-90s. Nancy has a few questions she’d like Baylor female athletes to address—and she wants to hear your stories and anecdotes too! Your voice will bring this project to life!
Nancy will be in touch with you to get the necessary permission if she wants to use your story in her book. You can answer her questions in the comment section below—we’d love to get a conversation going! If you prefer to share your story privately, you can e-mail Nancy. Thanks for your support of this project!
1. Were you a scholarship athlete at Baylor? When? What kind of financial aid did you receive for being an athlete? What sport did you play?
2. Why did you choose to attend Baylor?
3. What did it mean to you as a student to be a female athlete at Baylor?
4. What does it mean to you now to have left this legacy for current and future female athletes?