Senda Berenson papers
Scope and Contents
The Senda Berenson papers include biographical articles, news clippings, notebooks, correspondence, lecture notes, photographs, published writings and materials related to her induction into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and other honors. Notable people with whom Berenson corresponded include L. Clark Seelye and Dorothy Ainsworth, as well as several Smith alumnae. Of special importance are Berenson's lecture notes and speeches, which provide insight into her pioneering work on athletics for women, especially basketball.
Portions of the Senda Berenson papers have been digitized for the Five College Digitization Project Website.
Dates of Materials
- Creation: 1892 - 2006
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1897-1915
- Berenson, Senda, 1868-1954. (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.
Conditions Governing Use
Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.
Biographical / Historical
Senda Berenson, Smith College's 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. Berenson was born Senda Valvrojenski, March 19, 1868, in Vilna, Lithuania. She 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 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 that favored 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 2006 Berenson was inducted into the National Jewish Sports 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.
2.563 linear feet (4 containers)
Language of Materials
Senda Berenson, Smith College's 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. Her papers contain biographical articles, news clippings, notebooks, correspondence, lecture notes, photographs, and published writings and materials related to her induction into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and other honors.
This collection is organized into six series:
- I. Biography
- II. Correspondence, Incoming
- III. Correspondence, Outgoing
- IV. Lecture Notes
- V. Photographs
- VI. Writings
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The Senda Berenson Papers were donated over a period of time to the Smith College Archives from a variety of sources.
Portions of this collection have been digitized and are available on the Web as part of the Five College Archives Digital Access Project.
Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.
- Finding aid to the Senda Berenson papers
- Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (https://github.com/harvard-library/archivesspace-preprocessor)
- 2005-09-23: manosca37 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
- 2018-10-31: Containers added and finding aid updated as part of the College Archives Survey
- 2018-12-13: Container added, finding aid updated with notes, dates, barcodes
Part of the Smith College Archives Repository
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063