‘The Trailblazing Women of North America’ is a series focusing on a selection of women dating back to rugby’s inception in the North American region through to the present day. Territorial coverage of Rugby Americas North includes Canada, United States, Mexico, and 16 Caribbean islands which will be the geographical focus of the series. The women highlighted within this series are a collection of notables and should not discount others who bring change and value to the game, with or without fanfare. All women in rugby are worthy of acknowledgment and praise. Written by former USA Eagle Vanesha McGee.
Women in the rugby community push for continued equality within the sport, play with dominance on the pitch, and blaze a trail towards prominence that is worthy of notoriety. Women who have created spaces for rugby to exist, coached teams to prominence and led governing bodies to success are some of the least acknowledged contributors of rugby’s successes. Rugby Americas North, representing 19 North American countries and designated territories, highlights trailblazing women across the region who bring rugby representation to great heights.
Showcasing inspired women in the North American rugby community is an opportunity to recognize the greatness that has led to growth of the game and success on the field. Women have shown power and dominance in the sport since its inception in the late 1880s. In its earliest days, women who played rugby often did so ‘behind closed doors’. Public riots occurred and much pressure was put on the women who played and their supporters to prevent all such events from happening. Women of the 1900s were not to be stopped and rugby continued to spread from Europe across the Pacific and into the Western hemisphere.
As the sport grew its foundation abroad, women in North America began collectively creating teams at the university level. The first North American women’s rugby unions came onto the scene in the 1970s and have steadily grown in number and stature. These university teams graduated women who later established female club teams where others could participate outside of formal educational settings. Greater opportunities were established for women within the North American region to take part in the game. Rugby continued to expand its reach and women continued to push the boundaries of the sport.
The 1980s brought about the first national championships in many North American countries. The momentum continued as the Women’s International Rugby Board was formed in 1988, leading to the first international tournament, RugbyFest (Women’s World Rugby Festival), in 1990. Just one year later, the Women’s Rugby World Cup made its debut. Women’s rugby accelerated its growth and women in North America proved influential in elevating every aspect of the game.
Administrators, players, coaches, referees and promoters were the roles women held (and still hold) while illuminating a game with global acclaim and a lasting reputation. The 21st century holds incredible promise in the world of women’s rugby. North America has its share of trailblazing women to thank. With nearly twenty internationally sanctioned women’s teams and global renown afforded to a formidable stream of athletes, North America has countless women to appreciate and celebrate for forging such a triumphant path.
The persistence and talent of these North American trailblazers has played an extensive role in establishing clubs, leagues and programs across the whole of the North American region. Rugby Americas North is proud to recognize and acknowledge some of the women who have established and uplifted the culture of rugby from its most historical roots to the present day.