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Six-on-Six Girls Basketball in Iowa ephemera

Identifier: IWA1049

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Scope and Contents

Six-on-Six Girls Basketball in Iowa collection dates from 1920 to 2018 and measures 5 linear inches.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the end of 6-on-6 girls’ basketball in Iowa, the Iowa Women’s Archives produced a travelling exhibition entitled 6-on-6 Basketball and the Legacy of Girls’ and Women’s Sport in Iowa. The exhibit focused on this unique sport that was a central feature of community life in Iowa communities from 1920 to 1995. Using materials from the Iowa Women’s Archives (IWA) supplemented by additional research conducted by undergraduate American Studies students at the University of Iowa, IWA produced an exhibit that consists of seven banners measuring just under four feet by seven feet. These banners summarize different moments in the history of 6-on-6 basketball as they related to girls’ and women’s sport in Iowa and the United States. They highlight important themes: Traditions (1900-1929), Expansion (1930-1959), Challenges (1960-1979), Transitions (1980-1995), and Legacies. A corresponding digital map of girls’ basketball tournament data illustrates the impact of 6-on-6 and 5-on-5 basketball in rural and urban Iowa communities.

The exhibit travelled around the state in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum on Main Street national touring exhibition Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America and Main Street Iowa’s local exhibitions. Between March 2018 and January 2019, the IWA visited six Iowa towns spread across the state (Mount Vernon, Ottumwa, Guthrie Center, Jefferson, Ames, and Conrad). Curator Kären Mason and lecturer Jennifer Sterling gave gallery talks or presentations at each site; at five sites they collected materials for the IWA from the attendees and recorded interviews. After the national Hometown Teams project was completed, Mason and Sterling were invited to bring their exhibit to two towns not on the original list (Grinnell and New Hampton) and to give gallery talks there.

The collection consists of one series made up of individual experiences with six-on-six basketball in Iowa. Notable names within the collection include 1968 State Championship star Janet Scharnberg and 1995 University of Iowa women’s basketball coach Angie Lee. Among the six-on-six ephemera are newspaper clippings and pamphlets documenting the excitement and passion rural Iowan’s had for the game. One such newspaper article highlights the longevity of the game in Iowa, comparing the State Champion teams of Newhall Van Horne from 1927 and 1962. While most of the collection comes from the mid-century, it is important to note the ability for 6 on 6 girls’ basketball to continue across the generations. The collection is arranged alphabetically by donor’s last name.


  • Creation: 1920 - 2018

Conditions Governing Access

The papers are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright held by the donor has been retained by the donor.

Biographical / Historical

For most of the twentieth century, the state of Iowa was nationally known for its devotion to a unique form of women’s sport known as 6-on-6 girls’ basketball. Generations of athletes and their fans made this game the living heart of their communities, providing a source of pride and confidence. The impact of legendary players like Jan Jensen, Lynn Lorenzen, and Molly Bolin spread beyond community, and often state, boundaries. The players’ skills and athleticism, and families’ and friends’ enthusiastic support melded to form a unique sporting tradition that spoke to the rich culture of America’s heartland.

As other states abandoned 6-on-6, Iowa remained steadfast in its commitment until the state’s final 6-player championship in 1993, where Hubbard-Radcliffe Highschool prevailed over Atlantic Highschool 85-66. Offering a premier sporting event at both the state and community level, attendance at girls’ 6-on-6 games rivaled or surpassed the turnout at boys’ contests. Holding court at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, known affectionately as “The Barn,” legendary sportswriter and CBS reporter Heywood Hale Broun recounted the allure of the Iowa Girls State Basketball Tournament:

“When I am asked what is the most exciting sports event that I have ever covered. . . always when I’m asked that question I feel again the sulfurous taste in my mouth, the excitement of the Iowa Girls High School Basketball championships. When I went out to Iowa, I went as an eastern media snob. I was prepared to be snobby. I was prepared to make fun of the rubes in bloomers. But I couldn’t, not when I sensed the intensity all around me.

“I have never felt at any sport event such excitement as being inside this storage battery. . .the important thing is all the girls the next day, winners and losers alike, were winners. They had all had a vivid sporting experience. It was sport at its best; full of joy and zest and excitement and a kind of nobility. . ." (Des Moines Register, January 30, 1983.)

The year 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of the end of 6-on-6 girls’ basketball in Iowa. To commemorate and reflect on this uniquely Iowan sport, the Iowa Women’s Archives in cooperation with the American Studies/Sport Studies Department at the University of Iowa created a traveling exhibition focused on 6-on-6 basketball. Programs and archiving events at each exhibition site across the state encouraged Iowa women to share stories and documents of their own sporting experiences.


5 linear inches

1 DVD (d:0558) : Shelved in the digital collections

Language of Materials



A collection of materials documenting the history of six-on-six basketball across Iowa from a variety of donors.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Items in the collection were donated by multiple donors in 2018 and succeeding years, many as part of the collection development effort associated with the 2018 travelling exhibition about six-on-six basketball.

Six-on-Six Girls Basketball in Iowa ephemera
Emma Barton-Norris, 2021.
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Iowa Women's Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242 IaU
319-335-5900 (Fax)