Women at Wits have been at the forefront of many “firsts” including changes to the sports landscape at Wits and in South Africa.
Since 1920 Wits has produced more than 200 Springboks from over 40 different sports clubs.
The Athletics Club, established in 1920, was Wits’ first sports club. One of the club’s stars was Sonja Laxton.
Laxton became the first female athlete to be chosen as a Springbok to compete for track, marathon and cross country. She was inducted into the Runner’s World Magazine Hall of Fame in 2007.
Before 1923 Wits female athletes could only compete in individual sports or in the men’s team as there were not enough women to form complete teams.
The establishment of the National Women’s Hockey Club in 1923 cemented women’s place in Wits team sports. Two of the first Wits female hockey players are recorded as “Miss Brown” and “Miss Haviland”.
In 1923 Jennie Jacobson became the first Wits female hockey player to become a Springbok.
The all-women’s tennis team did not enjoy much success in its early days; however there were some successful players. Charleen Rigby was one of the club’s stars. She was awarded national colours and is a Full Blue (full Wits colours).
The women’s basketball team was established in 1975 and produced numerous stars. Fiona Duncan was regarded as “a star” basketball player and was awarded Wits full sports colours or Full Blue for seven years from 1979-1985.
In the 1961 Fencing championships, Wits women were ranked first. Suzanne de Villiers, a former Witsie, represented South Africa in the national hockey side against England in 1956.
Wits currently has 13 women playing at national level and there are currently 2 855 women playing across 37 Wits sports clubs.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 13 Edition May, 11.