The Brownies, a women’s amateur team from Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s. They were formed at the Illinois Athletic Club (IAC) around 1916, one of only five women’s amateur teams in the city at that time. According to the team's history the IAC team created something of an uproar in its first season. Under the guidance of Roy Davis, the girls switched from wearing baggy bloomers to the far more immodest boys' basketball uniforms. There was a "hurricane" of protests, charging immodesty and the "weakening of the moral fiber," but Davis stuck to his guns, and by 1926 most all the amateur girls teams in the city were wearing boys-styled uniforms. That story may not be wholly accurate. Perhaps the girls returned to their bloomers at some point, because the early pictures in the newspapers in 1922 show "baggy bloomers."
Began As the IAC Girls
While they were formally known as the Illinois Athletic Club Girls, the women had always worn brown uniforms and became popularly known as the Brownies. Their star player was scoring machine Elsie Schreiber, who would lead the team through most of its history. The IAC Girls won the Central AAU tournament title in 1920, which was for the "city championship," beating the Chicago Hebrew Institute girls, 19-13. The IAC dropped its sponsorship of the Brownies after the 1920 tournament.
As The Uptown Brownies
In the fall of 1921, the team came under new sponsorship of north side banker Robert F. McCambridge, playing under the name Uptown Brownies. In both 1922 and 1923 the Uptown Brownies won the Central AAU tournament championship, and in 1924 won the Central AAU league championship. They lost the Central AAU tournament to the Lake View Community Girls, 23-10.
In a five-year period, the Uptown Brownies lost only six Central AAU league and tournament games and won 160 games. The Brownies also lost four games to the world champion Edmonton Grads of Edmonton, Alberta, for the Underwood Trophy, two games in October 1923 in Edmonton, and two more the following year.
In the 1924-25 season, the Brownies had lost their corporate sponsor and went by the name of Chicago Brownies. Again the team was defeated for the the Central AAU championship for the second year in a row to their chief nemesis, the Lake View Community Girls, who would eventually evolve into the legendary Taylor Trunks.
In the 1925-26 season, the Brownies obtained a new sponsor, the T. J. Taylor Company, which made trunks. The team was called the Taylor Trunk Brownies. The season was not a good one for the team, and it was eliminated early in the Central AAU championship, which was won by the Tri-Chi Girls. Taylor withdrew its sponsorship, and the next year sponsored the Tri-Chi Girls.
As the IWAC Brownies
In the 1926-27 season, the Brownies began playing for the Illinois Women’s Athletic Club (IWAC), and became known as the IWAC Brownies. Led by their captain and star, Elsie Schreiber, other members of the team in 1926-27 were Edna Karstens, Jo Copeland, Marjorie Kennedy, Lillian Segal, Edna Hierman, Marie McDonough, Dorothy Duerr, and Dorothy Long. Karstens and McDonough were all-star caliber players. The Brownies participated in a new women’s league, the Middle States Girls Basketball League. In one league match, the Brownies beat the Finnish-American Athletic Club team 76 to 0. The IWAC Brownies capped their season by winning the 1927 Central AAU tournament, beating the Kenwood Girls, 27 to 9.
In 1928, the Brownies met the Edmonton Grads again for the Underwood Trophy, and lost 26-12 and 44-26. At the end of the 1928-29 season, in April, the IWAC Brownies competed for a Midwest championship, at Beloit, Wisconsin, which hosted a tournament of "state champions" from Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri, and Illinois. The Brownies defeated the Beloit Fairies, 15-11, for the title.
In the fall of 1929, the IWAC Brownies reorganized with an entirely new lineup. Their longtime star, Elsie Schreiber, became the unpaid coach for the team; and some of the veterans of the old team--notably Emma Jacob, Marie McDonough, Edna Karstens—helped the new Brownies by playing as a scrub team opponent for practices. That season, the Brownies again met Edmonton Grads, as a dubious candidate as the best team in Illinois, and lost abysmally, 33-11 and 43-14. The team was in decline. The team competed as the IWAC Brownies until at least 1933.
The Brownies continued to play amateur ball up to at least 1938, and like their long-time rivals, the Taylor Trunks, they played in preliminary games to the matchups in the men’s amateur circuit, the Windy City League. In January of that year, they lost to a women’s team from Hammond, the Queen Anne Aces, 33 to 23, in a preliminary game, and later in February they beat the Schlosser Bakers 36 t0 29 in another preliminary game.