When Alice Sullivan was growing up, she dreamed about playing high school sports. She never realized her dream but, thanks to her dedication, thousands of young women have experienced the thrill of being a high school athlete. For more than five decades, Alice Sullivan tirelessly dedicated herself to helping girls enjoy the benefits of athletic competition.
As a student at Durfee High School, Alice’s work earned official recognition for the girls athletic club, although its establishment did not occur until the year after she graduated. At Bridgewater State College, she organized field hockey games between Bridgewater and other schools, giving Bridgewater its first exposure to intercollegiate women’s athletics.
In the early 1950s, Alice organized weekend swim programs for girls. Soon after, Alice and some friends who taught health and physical education began sponsoring “Intramural Playdays” for young ladies. Those playdays, where girls basketball and volleyball teams from five or six schools competed, were the start of what has become the Rhode Island Interscholastic League’s sports program for girls. This program now benefits more than 10,000 girls competing annually.
Success did not happen all at once, of course. It has been a step-by-step, year-by-year process, and Alice was there every step of the way. In the late 1960s, Alice convinced the Rhode Island Interscholastic League to put some girls’ sport competitions on its schedule. To ensure that female sports presented the same type of awards as the established boys programs, she sold candy and soda to pay the bills.
Alice was never too proud or too tired to do the less glorious work needed to take a program from infancy to success. In 1972, there were 204 names on the rosters of 24 girls teams in two sports. When Alice retired, there were 426 teams in 14 sports–a figure that gives Rhode Island one of the highest participation rates in girls athletics of any state in the country.
Recognized both nationally and locally as an expert on women in sports, Alice was the first one to admit she had a lot of willing helpers through the years, but she was always the one on the front lines. One day she would be at a national committee meeting, and the next day, you could find her selling tickets at a game.
Alice Sullivan was a wife, mother, teacher, coach, administrator, and a one?woman public relations agent for girls’ sports. Thousands of women are thankful she championed their cause.