Photo: An early all-girls basketball game in the Philippines


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“P.I. : Filipino girls playing basketball (early 1900’s). (Worcester); 1855; 1900/1910.” University of Michigan Library Digital Collections.

Basketball is a huge sport in the Philippines. In trying to figure out how that happened, I came across this image in the archives University of Michigan Library Digital Collections, which includes lots of images from the early interactions of the US in the Philippines.

I was particularly curious to know if girls got to play, and this image—dated sometime in the first decade of the 1900s—answers that question in the affirmative. There is something hopeful about that ball aloft, one girl’s arms fully extended, the movements of the other girls toward the ball, the man in white on the sideline at right (coaching? officiating?), and even the study basketball hoop and net on a wide wooden backboard help up on stilts.

I don’t think the girls are thinking: Look at us assimilating into American culture by playing this game only a few years after the end of the Philippine-American War. Though, today, I do think that is one way of reading this image: that when the U.S. created the colonial government of the Philippines it instituted a new system of  public education, which had been absent during Spain’s colonial period in the Philippines, and included such cultural touchstones as basketball, which is now the most popular sport in the Philippines.

What do I think the girls are thinking in this photo? “Game on!”


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