Coming to campus? Visit this page for important information.
women's basketball teamMembers of the UWindsor women's basketball team are shown here in a file photo from 1963, when they were still known as the 'Lancerettes.'

Female athletes made 'great strides' in 50 years

They’ve come a long way from being called the “Lancerettes.”

In the last 50 years, women student-athletes at the University of Windsor have gone from being “a down-sized version of the real” Lancers to earning legitimacy, respectability, and along the way, a bulging trophy case full of national and provincial championships in basketball, track and field, volleyball and curling.

“I would say we’ve made huge strides,” retired kinesiology professor and women’s volleyball coach Margery Holman said of the progress women’s athletics has made since 1963. “A lot of people think it’s been slow, but once it started to take off, it took off quickly. But we do still have a long way to go.”

While it may seem trivial to some, dropping the “ettes” that was tacked on the end of the women’s athletic teams name marked a major milestone to others. As far back as 1974 when he joined the faculty, former human kinetics dean Bob Boucher said people were grumbling about what they thought was a derogatory term.

“The perception was that ‘ettes’ was a down-sized version of the real thing,” he said. “As a kitchenette is a down-sized version of a real kitchen, a Lancerette was being portrayed as a Lancer wannabe. Over the years this became a source of irritation for the female athletes and many others who sympathized with the cause.”

When he became department head in 1986, Boucher formed a committee of administrators, athletes and coaches to consider alternatives. They eventually agreed to drop the offending ‘ette,’ acknowledging that all athletes are Lancers regardless of gender.

Long before that change however, advocates for female athletic programs on campus had been working to ensure women had equal access to quality coaching, facilities, funding, and travel.

“I think the coaches did a wonderful job of standing up for their teams and we got what we needed,” said Carmen Eaton, a 2002 inductee in to the University’s Alumni Sports Hall of Fame. A former Assumption University Purple Raider, Eaton played badminton, tennis, basketball and volleyball and was voted most outstanding "frosh" in the 1960-61 season and most outstanding senior athlete in 1962-63.

A retired high school teacher, Eaton said most of her sports were played in the old St. Denis Hall – now known as the Education Gym – and that the women’s and men’s teams were often vying for facility practice time.

“We got facility time because of coaches advocating for us,” she said, noting that Elizabeth “Sis” Thomson and Betty Colborne were among the best of their era. “The coaches were wonderful. They were just so encouraging.”

Sheila Wright, who graduated from Assumption University in 1961 and spent about eight years on the executive committee of the hall of fame, called Colborne “a pioneer.”

“She was a feminist who pushed to get women established in collegiate sports,” said Wright, who played on Colborne’s basketball and volleyball teams. “At that time women only participated in intramural sports.”

When it comes to true pioneers however, many point to Dr. Holman, whose name has become synonymous with the development of female athletics on campus.

“Her whole philosophy of girls in sports was the basis for the success of women’s athletics at the University of Windsor,” said Eaton. “That was an essential part of women’s athletics here.”

For her part, Holman credited the atmospheric wave of rising feminism, as well as some specific legislation in the United States that influenced the development of women’s sports in Canada. Title IX was a portion of the education amendments of 1972 which stated that no U.S. citizen could be excluded from any educational program based on gender.

“It didn’t even include athletics, but it caught on,” Holman said. “I really believe we were influenced by that American legislation.”

As more women began participating, successes were achieved, and many female athletes became role models for younger generations, Holman said. These days, the university continues to promote outreach programs that encourage girls to participate in all kinds of physical activity, she added.

“The leadership the university has shown in cooperation with community programs has been absolutely critical,” Holman said.

Celebrating 50 years