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Senda Berenson (Abbott)


BERENSON (Abbott), SENDA (Valvrojenski; 1868–1954), "Mother of Women's Basketball" and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. Born in Baltramentz (Butrimonys), a town near Vilna, Lithuania, Berenson's family immigrated to Boston when she was seven, changing the family name from Valvrojenski to Berenson. She became the first director of physical education at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, in January 1892, a month after James Naismith invented basketball in nearby Springfield. Berenson visited Naismith to learn the game and adopted it for her female students, organizing the first official game of women's basketball on March 22, 1893. It featured the Smith sophomores against the freshmen, with no male spectators allowed. Berenson introduced the first rules of women's basketball (1899), adapted to avoid the roughness of the men's game and stressing a refined game that favored socialization and cooperation over competition and winning. Her rules included dividing the court into three areas, with two players permanently designated for each area; eliminated stealing the ball; limited dribbling to three bounces; and restricted a player from holding the ball longer than three seconds. She was editor of Spalding's Official Basketball Guide for Women (1901–17) and chairwoman of the U.S. Women's Basketball Committee (1905–17). She left Smith in 1911 after marrying Herbert Vaughan Abbott, a professor of English at Smith, and chaired the physical education department at the Mary A. Burnham School in Northampton until 1921. In 1934, she moved to Santa Barbara, Calif., where she died. She was one of first three women elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame (1985). Her brother was the art historian Bernard *Berenson .

[Elli Wohlgelernter (2nd ed.)]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.