The Beginning: 1900-29
The first known women’s athletic match at Western was a basketball game played against the London Collegiate Institute in December of 1902. When the basketball craze swept across Canada following the First World War, Western women were ready and willing to play.
The team of seven coached by G. Mel Brock competed in the YMCA-organized city league, winning all five games in their group but unfortunately losing in the final of the 1920-21 season. Their teamwork was described as “pretty” and their shooting “accurate” and the team was recognized by the Directorate and were given the central crest of the “official W” that year.
While the team found early success in the city league, they struggled to gain the support of the university both in terms of encouragement and the ability to join the intercollegiate “Big 3” Canadian Intercollegiate Women’s Basketball League (CIWBL) that consisted of McGill, Queen's and Toronto. The 1922 yearbook lamented that “the team this year played no outside games and joined no intercollegiate league.” Despite the lack of support, this challenge to the women of Western made it clear that basketball was here to stay: “How about it girls? – let’s all turn out next year and make a name for Western girls’ athletics.”
Women's basketball developed throughout the remainder of the 1920s under the guidance of coaches Dr. George Smith, Louise Burns and Joyce Plumptre. Western continued to apply to enter the CIWBL. They played in the Intercollegiate Tournament with Guelph and the University of Toronto Varsity Seconds in 1925 and as visitors in the CIWBL in 1926, and were finally given admission to the intercollegiate league in 1927. The persistence paid off, and in 1928, under the guidance of coach Louise Burns the team surprised everyone by winning the championship in their first year of intercollegiate competition, bringing home the Bronze Baby trophy. The 1928 Occidentalia yearbook detailed their struggle: "Too many congratulations cannot be showered on the members of the team. They were handicapped by the lack of adequate gymnasium facilities and could only practice two or three afternoons a week. Also...it is difficult to get exhibition and practice games."