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Senda Berenson Papers, , 1897-1985 (Bulk: (bulk 1897-1915))
2 boxes (.75 linear ft.)
Collection number: RG 42

Abstract:
Director of the Gymnasium and Instructor of Physical Culture, introduced the first rules of women's basketball and organized the first women's college basketball game. Contains biographical articles, news-clippings, notebooks, correspondence, lecture notes, photographs, and published writings.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the Senda Berenson Papers must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Copyright for official Smith correspondence and documents is owned by the Smith College Archives. Provenance and copyright ownership of personal materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA

Biographical Note

Senda Berenson was born Senda Valvrojenski, March 19, 1868, in Vilna, Lithuania. Berenson trained at the Boston Normal School of Gymnastics and was hired at Smith in January 1892, one month after the game of basketball had been invented by James Naismith at the International YMCA Training School in nearby Springfield, Mass. At Smith, Berenson instituted an effective program of Swedish gymnastics, which was supplemented by organized athletic contests in sports such as volleyball, fencing, field hockey and basketball, all intended to build character in her female students. She believed in strict and careful supervision of all activities and in offering "the most for the most," i.e., including young women of all skill levels in the program rather than devoting her time to a small group of highly skilled students. This philosophy resulted in a policy at Smith College to favor a strong intramural program over interscholastic athletic competition. Berenson extended her missionary-like work in popularizing Swedish gymnastics beyond Smith: first with students and faculty at Northampton High School, and later with female patients at the Northampton Lunatic Hospital.

Shortly after her appointment at Smith, Berenson read about the new sport of basketball and visited with Naismith to learn more about it. On March 22, 1893, she organized the first women's collegiate basketball game when her Smith freshmen and sophomores played against one another. Influenced by the thinking of her time about women's physical limitations, she soon adapted the rules to avoid the roughness of the men's game. Berenson's rules were first published in 1899. Two years later, she became editor of A. G. Spalding's first Women's Basketball Guide, which further spread her version of basketball for women. In 1985 Berenson and Margaret Wade were the first two women elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

In 1911, after marrying Herbert Vaughan Abbott, a professor of English at Smith, Berenson resigned from her position at the College. She remained as editor of the Women's Basketball Guide and as chair of the U.S. Women's Basketball Committee for six years. Her husband died in 1929. In 1934 she moved to Santa Barbara, Calif. to live with her sister. Berenson died in February 16, 1954.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Senda Berenson Papers cover 1897-1985. The majority of the materials are from 1897-1915. The items include biographical articles, news-clippings, notebooks, correspondence, lecture notes, photographs, and published writings. Notable people with whom Berenson corresponded include L. Clark Seelye and Dorothy Ainsworth, as well as several Smith graduates. Of special importance are Berenson's lecture notes and speeches, which provide insight into her pioneering work on athletics for women, especially basketball.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

The records are open for research according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives without any additional restrictions.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the Senda Berenson Papers must be requested from the Smith College Archives. Copyright for official Smith correspondence and documents is owned by the Smith College Archives. Provenance and copyright ownership of personal materials is unknown and researchers are responsible for determining any question of copyright.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Senda Berenson Papers, Box #, Smith College Archives.

Additional Formats

Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available on the Web as part of the Five College Archives Digital Access Project.

History of the Collection

The Senda Berenson Papers were donated over a period of time to the Smith College Archives from a variety of sources.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: nyoung@smith.edu
URL: http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/archives

Language
English