Today women are standing tall in the realm of the shooting sports, but nearly a hundred years ago they were rarely seen. This remarkable photo shows us that there were then as now those who were enamored with the sport and willing to give it a shot (pun intended)
Above we see the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry Female Rifle Team of 1925. The image comes from Shorpy Historical Picture Archive. Known since 1970 simply as Drexel University, the school was originally founded in 1891 by Philadelphia financier and philanthropist Anthony J. Drexel to provide educational opportunities in the "practical arts and sciences" for women and men of all backgrounds.
Serious 22LR Hardware
These well-equipped and stylish young women are armed with what appear to be (from left to right) a Springfield Armory 1922 NRA Target rifle with Lyman 48 Receiver sight, a Winchester Model 52 Target Rifle, another Model 52 with a wrapped stock, a Winchester 1885 Low Wall single shot, 1922 Springfield again, and finally in the great coat another Low wall. Any one of these pieces were known to hold sub-MOA groups if the user did their part.
But could they shoot?
These women were strait shooters. Apparently formed in 1921 under the instruction of Lieut. J. P. Lyons, U.S.A., military instructor at the Institution, they won several competitions. From two period newspaper articles :
Good Rifle Teams at Drexel College
"Drexel Institute, of Philadelphia, had two wonderful rifle shooting teams the past indoor season one of boys, the other of girls. So good was the girls' team that Capt. J. P. Lyons, the instructor, said: 'I would like to match the girls against any boys' rifle team in the country.' When the instructor talks that way the girls must be counted on as real shots. They were. They didn't lose a match. Next season, it is more than likely that the girls will be eligible to try for the university team. Drexel won 16 of its 18 matches, lost 1 and tied 1 with Yale. In five of its matches Drexel made perfect scores." Washington Post, 18 June 1922.
"Girls' rifle team of Drexel Institute defeated a picked sharpshooter squad of Philadelphia police in a match." Hammond, Indiana, Times, 25 February 1926.
Drexel had a long history of supporting both military science and the shooting sports. As early as 1916 the building known simply today as the Armory housed the The Dandy First" 103rd Engineer Regiment that traces it linage back to the 4th Continental Artillery and is considered the first regiment of the nation's National Guard.
Today Drexel is considered among the top 200 universities in the World. In U.S. News & World Report's annual "America's Best Colleges List," the university has been ranked consistently among the "Best National Universities." But sadly, the rifle team was disbanded a few years ago.
But their torch has been passed on...
Female shooters today
From the Drexel team of the 1920s, fast forward to today and you will be pleasantly pleased to find that firearms are no longer considered just 'for the boys.' In large towns and small, female-exclusive firearms clubs are popping up like coffee houses in the 1990s.
An all-women's shooting league, A Girl and a Gun is the fastest growing of its type and now has more than thirty chapters on all three coasts. Part of this movement is the increase in popularity of firearms savvy bloggers such as Fate of Destinee, a Girl and Her Gun and Cornered Cat.
I'm sure the gals of the Drexel shooting team would be avid subscribers.