One of Trinity’s earliest women’s tennis teams at the Waxahachie campus
In the opening decades of the 20th century, Trinity women displayed a growing interest in sports and physical education.
On the Waxahachie campus, they took up tennis, fencing, and basketball as intramural sports. Initially barred from using the exercise room in the basement of the administration building, they aired their displeasure in a letter to the Trinitonian, stating, "The boys seem to be the only persons in the University who have an opportunity for athletics. We girls are getting tired of such partiality. We would enjoy a few swings on horizontal bars ourselves.”
Following the construction of Drane Hall in 1912, women acquired facilities for gymnastics and other indoor exercise activities. Women's organizations, such as the Trinity Tramps, specialized in hiking and outdoors activities. The faculty approved the group's constitution with the proviso that they conduct no overnight hikes and carry no firearms. The Women's Athletic Association formed in 1927 to promote female athletic activities and outdoor sports, especially volleyball, baseball, and tennis.
Because female students were not permitted to leave campus, their games were limited to contests between students living in town and those in the dormitory. Basketball, which required agility rather than physical contact, was especially popular among Trinity coeds.
Despite the popularity of coed sports, it was not until the passage of Title IX legislation, which mandated equality of funding for both sexes, that Trinity began to develop intercollegiate women’s teams.
Trinity was among the first NCAA institutions in Texas to award athletic scholarships to female tennis players. In 1973, Trinity varsity tennis players Val Franta, Mary Hamm, JoAnne Russell, and Donna Stockton became the first recipients of such awards.
The women's team, coached by Marilyn Rindfuss, won the U.S. Tennis Association team championships in 1973, 1975, and 1976. Stephanie Tolleson won the national singles title in 1975, and JoAnne Russell and Donna Stockton took first place in doubles that same year. In 1978 Anne Smith gained All-America honors and later pursued a professional tennis career.
Other women's sports flourished under the leadership of Libby Johnson, who served as assistant athletic director in charge of women's athletics and, for a number of years, coached basketball, volleyball, and softball. After playing for several years on an extramural basis, Trinity women opened the 1974 volleyball season as a member of the Texas Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women, an equivalent of the men's NCAA. Before Johnson left Trinity in 1981, her teams had won six basketball, four volleyball, and four softball city collegiate championships. Dozens of women also assumed other roles in athletics previously occupied solely by males. Coach Gene Norris appointed Kara Christian in 1974 to be the first female student manager of the football team in Trinity's long history. In another precedent-breaking action, Claudia White became the first female sports editor of the Trinitonian. In announcing her appointment, White commented, "I suppose Trinity athletes thought the 'Simon Pure' adoption was the final blow to their Herculean endeavors. Well, here's another—me. "
Despite success on the playing field, women athletes often operated in the shadow of their male counterparts. And as meteoric as the rise of intercollegiate women’s sports were under Johnson in the 1970s, Trinity President Duncan Wimpress’ move to de-emphasize Division I athletics at Trinity later that very same decade served as a frustrating roadblock to many women’s teams that had just started hitting their own stride.