Dorothy Eda Hehnke

“We can’t stop them.”
—An athletic association president, 1922 

In the early 1920s, Dorothy Eda Hehnke played half-court basketball at her Nebraska high school, one of few sports available to girls. At the time, most people mistakenly believed that girls could not handle the physical exertion or stress of competitive sports. In 1926 the state legislature outlawed girl’s play altogether—a ban not overturned until Title IX.


Who gets to play sports?

YWCA basketball player, 1918 

Bonus content

More to think about: Where does the fight for fair play in sports go from here?

The fight for gender equity in sports has been going on for a long time. These are some of the athletes who made a difference—before and after Title IX.


(1972) Title IX passed


Visual description

You are presently next to a square columns that is in front of the long wall case that comprises the first part of this exhibit titled We Belong Here that marks the 50th anniversary of Title 9. On the column is an illustration from a poster from the 1920s that shows a teenaged girl with wavy brunette hair tossing a basketball into a hoop. She is wearing a white tunic-length top with sleeves rolled above her elbows, a navy-blue kerchief, and navy-blue knee-length bloomers with black stockings and flat shoes. The illustration is a stand in for Dorothy Eda Henke who played half-court basketball at her Nebraska high school, one of the few sports available to girls before Title 9. Behind the illustration is a splash of green—like quickly brushed paint. A quote by a man about women in the 1920s already making inroads into sports reads: We can’t stop them. 

Many of the objects in this exhibition have been scanned in 3D!
Check them out at Smithsonian 3D Digitization