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Lowell Stories: Women's History

Ruth Merrill Bailey (1886-1990)

Ruth Merrill Bailey, Mount Holyoke College, Holyoke, Massachusetts, Special Collections and Archives.

Ruth Bailey was born May 24, 1886 in Lowell. Her parents were Dr. Stephen Bailey and Ella Pray. Died July 9, 1990 in Brewster, Massachusetts.
1905 Class Lowell High School
2009 Inducted in Lowell High School, Athletic Hall of Fame
Athletic Biography
"Competing in the nascent era of Lowell High School athletics and the early years of the sport of basketball more than one hundred years ago, Ruth Bailey established benchmarks in girl's basketball that will unlikely ever be equaled. While admittedly competing in an era when the rules of girl's basketball were drastically different from today (6 players–3 on defense, 3 on offense; center jump after each basket; running time for significant portions of the game; et. al.), Ruth still produced statistics which were at that time unequaled in the history of the game.
As a sophomore in 1902–1903, Ruth burst on the scene in spectacular fashion. Playing in only 9 of the team’s 14 games, she scored more than 200 points (almost half of the team’s seasonal output) while leading Lowell to a 14–0 record. Ruth had games of 32 and 38 points before totaling and amazing 66 points in a lopsided 83–5 victory over Melrose. That total established a new world record for points scored by a female in a basketball game.
During her junior year (1903–1904), Ruth continued her exploits on the hardwood. She scored 301 of Lowell’s seasonal total of 489 points, leading Lowell to a 15–0 record, culminating in an 11–4 victory over Springfield High to win the Massachusetts State Championship. Along the way, Ruth had scoring games of 46 and 54 points against Everett and Dedham respectively.
As a senior (1904–1905) Ruth finished her career in a blaze of glory. Again, the dominant figure on a dominant team, Ruth scored 225 of Lowell’s total of 406 for the season, Leading Lowell to a 2nd consecutive Massachusetts’s State Championship and then to the New England Championship with a 32–8 romp over Portland, Maine High School. Lowell finished the season with a record of 13–0. On January 2, 2005, in a game against Belmont, Ruth scored an incredible 40 baskets and 2 free throws for a total of 82 points, shattering her own world record. During Ruth’s tenure as a member of the Lowell High team, the overall team record was an amazing 42–0.
Ruth finished her career with a total of 737 points in only 34 games for 21.7 points per game average, easily the best in school history. Ruth’s name appears in numerous other categories in the Lowell High School Girls Basketball Record Books, including points in a single game (where she had 4 of the top 5 scoring games), and single game, seasonal, and career field goals–all despite playing in only 34 career contests. After graduation from Lowell High School, Ruth went on to play basketball at Mount Holyoke College.
She continued her education at Sargent School of Physical Education; Simmons College; and Harvard College. She taught Physical Education at several schools and colleges in New England including Lowell Normal School (now University of Massachusetts Lowell) from 1921-1940. Ruth then moved to Brewster, Massachusetts and finished her career as a teacher at the Sea Pines School."



NOTE:  What is even more remarkable is that shortly after Ruth Bailey graduated from Lowell High School in 1905, all sports for young women at Lowell High were eliminated. It wasn't until parents sued Lowell High School under Title IX and won in 1971 that sports for young women was mandated. Initially a Swim Team and eventually other sports for young women were reintroduce in Lowell High School. I am still looking, but as yet can find no high school in New England that eliminated all sports for young women in the early 1900s. Very Very Strange. -Martha Mayo