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All American Red Heads: Professional Women's Basketball Team Of The Past

Updated on May 6, 2017
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The All American Red Heads (1936-1986)

Prior to today's version of the WNBA, women's basketball had struggled for years to reach any type of status in the professional ranks. A sign of the times, the general idea was that women simply couldn't play basketball. In addition to that, there was absolutely no way a women's team could compete against a man's team.

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Early History

The All American Red Heads disagreed, and proved that philosophy wrong night after night.

The concept came from an individual named C.M. "Ole" Olson. In 1936, he put together the first team of women basketball players that would humble the like of men throughout the United States for over 50 years.

However, the task of coming up with a name that would immediately draw the attention of fans came from his wife who owned a string of beauty salons throughout the South. Thus, the All American Red Heads were born!

The team would play by men's rules, against men's teams, and steadily demonstrated talents and abilities far beyond those they competed against. Comedic antics prevailed, much in the same mode as the Harlem Globetrotters would use to entertain the crowds. However, never did basketball take second place as they demonstrated skills many men could only hope to develop.

In it's heyday, three teams traveled the United States for the organization. Making money in half filled high school gymnasiums was a tough act, but the ladies never let that stand in their way of providing a quality performance. Reputations were built and as the teams returned to the areas year after year, crowds and profits increased.

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Not An Easy Life On The Road

Life wasn't easy. Each season stretched from October to early May, During the season, it wasn't unheard of for the team to play in over 200 road games. That's an average of almost 28 games per month! And today's professional teams complain over their "light" schedules!

The off seasons were filled with basketball camps and clinics. Teaching the basic and advanced skill levels of dribbling, passing and shooting to young women was not only a vocation, but a way to increase the overall talent of females participating in school sports.

As women's professional basketball became more prominent, the team novelty for fans seemed to die for the Red Heads. Finally, in 1986, the All American Red Heads ended touring. However, that's not the end of the story!

April 7th, 2012, was the day of recognition for all the exceptional efforts put forth by this team. The All American Red Heads became a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall Of Fame. September 7th, 2012, is their day to become formerly enshrined.

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Personal Testimony

I saw the All American Redheads in 1967. It was a small crowd of maybe 150 people in a small high school gym in Spencer, Indiana. However, the show they put on was top quality and could've filled any major entertainment facility with fans. However, they found the heart of America by doing it the hard way.

The pictures provided are from a program sold at that show. I've kept it for all these years. Why? Because, even though it took the Basketball Hall of Fame another 45 years to discover, I knew I'd had the privilege of seeing something special that evening. Not only did I want to hold on to the memory, I wanted to be able to say,

"I still own a piece of memorabilia of one of the greatest teams that ever played the game!"


┬ęCopyright RCRUMPLE2012. All Rights Reserved

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The All American Red Heads

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    • rcrumple profile image
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      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Nate -

      So good to see you here!

      They were an absolute dream to watch in action. When they came to our town, several of the stars of our school in years past put a team together and went at them full blast. Yet, the Red Heads put them to shame with the talent they exhibited, as well as, the court antics they presented. Truly a remarkable forerunner to the WNBA today!

      Thanks for commenting! Many Thanks!

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 4 years ago from California, United States of America

      This is simply fascinating, I never heard of them. I would have loved to see them perform.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Jayme -

      So good of you to visit!

      Men's leagues and Hall Of Fame's have always been slow to recognize the role women played in the sports they represent. I guess it was a macho thing. Sad, but true. These ladies deserve all the praise they can get. Just a shame that there were many from the early years that never made it to see the recognition come around.

      Thanks for commenting! Many Thanks!

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      This was very interesting. I really enjoy watching basketball, but had never heard of these ladies. From that rigorous schedule you described, it sounds like they were very dedicated athletes. Its a shame it took so long for them to achieve proper recognition.

      Thanks for the great read and sharing the pictures from your program!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Mr. Archer - If you grew up in the Missouri area, you were right in the part of the country they most visited. They made it a point to hit many high schools and give a demonstration of their abilities, trying to reach as many of the down home folk they could. Thanks for the kind words! Greatly appreciated!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Alecia - These professionals were the trailblazers for women's basketball. Previously, it had been a male dominated sport. Yet, the interest these young ladies brought, as well as the teaching they provided many, set the path for many to follow. I wish you could have seen them in action. If we were to compete a WNBA team to them today, I would venture to say the Red Heads would still have a victorious record. Thanks for commenting!

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 4 years ago from Missouri

      I guess I am in the minority in that I have heard of them, but did not know that much about them. Great job on the history, making it pertinent and interesting all at once. Nicely done, Sir!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      I didn't realize how much history there was in women's basketball. This is an interesting and fascinating story. I'm glad they finally got the recognition they deserved.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Julie - Thanks so much for visiting again! Greatly appreciated!

      Daisy - Really glad you enjoyed this offering. I felt they were superior in so many ways that went totally unrecognized by most, it was time they received some of the spotlight. Thanks so much for visiting!

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Rich (rcrumple),

      What a great piece of history! Thanks for keeping the Red Heads alive.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Enjoyed this again Rich, shared etc.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 4 years ago from Kentucky

      Linda -

      Good to see you again!

      I'm happy you liked this. They were a great group of ladies, and a great team!

      Thanks for the kind words. Much appreciated!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I'm stopping by for a 2nd visit to this very entertaining and interesting hub! Thanks again for creating it RC :)

    • rcrumple profile image
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      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Glimmer -

      Hello, good to see you!

      The "caped one" was the featured comedian / star of the team. She'd initiate most of the jokes during play as well as do a half court shooting exhibitions at halftime. The one shown just happened to be the wife of the coach, also! That probably helped her star would be my guess as all were great ones!

      Thanks for commenting! Much appreciated!

    • rcrumple profile image
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      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      phoenix2327 -

      Nice of you to stop in!

      These ladies traveled throughout the United States for years. They'd usually put one ad in the newpaper, a few placards in store windows, and that was it. Unfortunately, many missed the quality act and skills they provided.

      Apprciate you commenting! Many Thanks!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 5 years ago

      Wow! this is an interesting hub. Voted up! I love the cape in the one picture. Also, love hearing about the independent spirit of women!

    • phoenix2327 profile image

      Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      I've never heard of this team. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and memories with us.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Mh -

      Good to see you!

      They were a trip to watch back in the day. There were a lot of traveling shows back then: Donkey Baskeball, Wheelchair Basketball, and of course the Harlem Globetrotters. These ladies stood out big time!

      Talk to you later, my friend! Many Thanks!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      First I've heard of this. Thanks. Roller Derby . The Bombers

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Linda -

      So nice of you to visit!

      These ladies proved for years that you didn't have to be a man to make it in the game. They were true pioneers in women's rights without even realizing it!

      Appreciate the comments! Many Thanks!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      This is a first for me! Never heard of these ladies. Way to go Red Heads! Great photos and history of the team.

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Ryem -

      Nice to see you today!

      So glad you enjoyed the hub! This was indeed comprised of many great players over the 50 years span that deserves all the credit they can get!

      I appreciate your comments! Many Thanks!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Shauna -

      Good afternoon!

      I completely understand your love. In Indiana, where I grew up, it's called "Hoosier Hysteria." Of course, thanks to the movie "Hoosiers" this is now a well known fact. College basketball is my one true love in the sports scene. And no, even though I live in Lexington, I'm not a UK fan. I'm still Cream and Crimson Indiana through and through!

      Thanks for stopping in! Much Appreciated!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Theresa -

      Thanks for stopping in!

      This team's origin actually began years before that represented in "A League Of Our Own." Perhaps, some of the baseball promoters of the women's league heard of them and decided to see if it'd work in baseball. Only a guess as there's nothing to back that up.

      Appreciate you coming by! Many Thanks!

    • rcrumple profile image
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      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Michelle -

      How are you today?

      If I'm not mistaken, the tallest player on the team was only 6'3". I remember her making a 6'7" male center look sad! lol Thanks for sharing! Greatly Appreciated!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Julie -

      Good to see you!

      Women's basketball is finally getting some of the credit it deserves in the WNBA. These ladies were the true trailblazers, for sure!

      Thanks for your compliments and comments! Much Appreciated!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Sherri -

      So nice of you to stop in!

      These ladies knew their stuff. They not only talked the talk, they walked the walk. They won over 97% of the games they ever played. Hard to debate that type of quality!

      Thanks for commenting! Much Appreciated!

    • rcrumple profile image
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      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Julie -

      Good to see you!

      They definitely did some kicking when they came to town. They played a group of men put together from past high school stars and beat them to a pulp. Add the fun of their antics and they were the shining stars!

      I appreciate your comments! Many Thanks!

    • Ryem profile image

      Ryem 5 years ago from Maryland

      This is an interesting article. I never heard about this team. I'm really glad you shared this information along with the pictures and video. Their story is simply amazing. Voted up

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Rich, I've never heard of this team, but I'm so glad you've brought them to light. I played basketball in catholic school. Catholic girls are big on b-ball, at least in Philly during the sixties and seventies. Even when not in school, a bunch of us girls would meet at someone's house and play. I love playing basketball, although haven't played a game in years. Shooting hoops is always fun. I like to see if I still have it!

      Thanks again for this hub. Very refreshing and you brought back some great memories!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Very interesting and of course I had no idea that this women's team ever existed. Your story reminded me of the film about the women's baseball league that developed during World War II. Fascinating. :)

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Now being smaller sized, basketball is destined not to be one of my favorite games...but I enjoyed the information anyway!! A fascinating women's basketball team. Thanks for the write, Richard.Shared.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Rich, what a great hub. I did not even know the USA had a WNBA until last year when I started to watch college basketball on ESPN America (satellite channel). I love the old photos you have included and they certainly sound like they made their exhibitions entertaining. Good for them on reaching the hall of fame.

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      I'm another one who never heard of the All American Red Heads. What a great story, especially as it is showcased with your memories and memorabilia. I'm sharing on our Facebook page, A Woman's Life's Work. Up!

    • Julie DeNeen profile image

      Blurter of Indiscretions 5 years ago from Clinton CT

      Huh. I never heard of this! Very cool. I love stories about women kicking ass! :) Voting up!!!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Janine -

      Good morning!

      These ladies were the best at their game and tremendous entertainers, all in one. I'll never forget staying around to see them and being exceptionally happy I did. Some of the most personable individuals you'd ever meet...not at all hung up on themselves as so many are today. They deserve the honor!

      I appreciate you commenting! Many Thanks!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      Mary -

      Good Morning!

      They were pioneers in the women's rights movement without saying a word about it. They demonstrated they could do everything that the men of the time say they couldn't. A tremendous group of individuals!

      Thanks for stopping in! Much Appreciated!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 5 years ago from New York, New York

      Wow, I have to be honest and say I never actually heard of these women or this basketball team, but from your article, pictures and video, I must say I have to agree with you that they truly were quite impressive and what a class act. It is a shame that women in sports sometimes get pushed to the background instead of being put further in the spotlight so to speak at times and your article only seems to prove that ever so much more. I mean even though it was baseball, not basketball, your article brought back memories of the all female baseball league during WWII that was depicted in the movie "A League of Their Own". Seriously I know it was a movie, but yet again it showed how women could baseball just as well as any man and still were not good enough to stay the course once the men came home from war. Thanks for bringing this wonderful group of women to the forefront here and sharing this with us. I have voted and shared too!!

    • rcrumple profile image
      Author

      Rich 5 years ago from Kentucky

      deerev -

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

      I wish I could find a video of them in the 60's. They were truly an amazing team. And, they never left early after the games. They stayed until the last fan had autographs.

      I appreciate your comments! Many Thanks!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      As they say, "very interesting"! I had never heard of them either but it is nice to know they are being recognized for their contribution to basketball, female sports and just ladies in general ;)

      Voted this up and interesting.

    • deerev profile image

      deerev 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Great photos and video! I have never heard of the All American Red Heads. I will share this hub with my daughters who play basketball. Thanks for sharing.