GAA - Girls Athletic Association

The purpose of the GAA was to unify the local girls' athletic programs in various schools.

 

The Girls Athletic Association (GAA) was formed in the 1890's across high schools and (women's) colleges to foster physical activity among young ladies in a social setting. That social setting was often large rooms or occasionally a gymnasium with the windows closed and covered - least should a lad happen by and see the young ladies in their bloomers(!) was the reality they had to deal with.

As hard at it is to accept that young ladies were limited to playing in closed rooms wearing wool bloomers and not being allowed to keep score in a basketball game, the GAA (and other girl athlectic organizations) helped to show the world that young ladies could safely be physically active. That was a legitimate concern for the times. 

Quickly, mindsets changed and young ladies were allowed to try other sports, keep score AND compete with other schools. Being part of the GAA organization linked the local GAA club with other nearby GAA clubs and brought a format to games and competition that everyone agreed on.

GAA clubs were supported by the members who had to raise funds to buy uniforms (or more likely the fabric for the uniforms so that they, or a local seamstress, could make the uniforms), pay the custodian to open up the gym, buy the equipment needed, etc. Clubs had presidents, vice-presidents, treasurers and most importantly - a secretary - who was the one who stayed in contact with other clubs and organized the meets.

As time moved on, GAA clubs were allowed to invite audiences to their games that included MALES! They could also charge admission to the games/meets that helped pay their way and play sports outside!

Some lesser known aspects of the GAA:

  • Young women were members of the GAA club first, before being on a team. That meant that members were expected to support all the club members even if you didn't play the sport; help raise funds for needed uniforms, attend the GAA games as an audience member, take in visiting team members into your home for the night if needed.

  • GAA clubs often set aside emergency funds for club members who may have needed to see a doctor or dentist in an emergency, or simply to provide food for a needy family. The money could be thought of as a loan (re-paid in nickles and dimes) or handed out as a gift.

The GAA continued to grow and evolve as years moved on

and it became a regular feature of most high schools and colleges.

When Title IX was passed in 1972, that theoretically equalized

funding for sport and physical fitness programs in schools

between males & females, the need for GAA decreased.

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A 1937 GAA handbook for the Chicago Senior High Schools

An early GAA Award Pin

Points earned by being an active club member as well as a participant in a sport led to "lettering" patches,  that were proudly worn (and saved) by young women.

A GAA pin in the shape of a flower is 1/2" diameter

Modern GAA pin

This Winged Foot of Mercury GAA pin is tiny, only 1/2" tall.

GAA pin showing a variety of sports around the edge

Double Winged Foot of Mercury GAA pin is also very small.

Double Winged Foot of Mercury blue enameled GAA pin is 1/2" tall.

Silver tone GAA key with red, white and black enamel, just over 1" in length

GAA pins were often awarded after earning points with GAA by being a good & active club member and participating in a given sport.

There appears to be 2 basic types of GAA pins; those that appear to have been available nationally and those that were locally made.  Pins that I believe were nationally made are easier to find and use a simple design. Those made locally have features - such as color or shape, that identify the pin from a certain area.

1966 Girls Athletic Association Manual put out by the National Girls Athletic Association - part of the American Association for Health, Physical Education and Recreation, a department of the National Education Association. Whew!

GAA Hand Book, circa 1929, for Concordia, Kansas High School, published locally - maybe even at the school. 30 or so pages of the GAA adventures from 1924-1928, with photos; camping, sports, trips, etc.

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Last Updated June 14, 2020

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