In the old school traditions of curling, the old timers believed that a women’s place in a curling club was in the kitchen, and not on the ice. In many clubs, women could not be regular voting members. Instead they belonged to the Women’s Auxiliary of the club, with names such as Lassies or Kilties.
When curling came to southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois in the early 1960’s, this tradition continued. When the Wagon Wheel opened in 1961 men from neighboring cities formed curling clubs which curled on various nights of the week. Women would band together and curl on various mornings throughout the week. If you were a woman with a full time job, Sunday afternoon was available. Mixed curling was not offered.
Women from Janesville started following their husbands down to the Wagon Wheel, where they were promised a good meal and a few cocktails. The women became interested in curling, started taking lessons, and before long had enough interest to start their own league on Tuesday mornings.
Their skill level improved, and they entered a team in a Women’s Bonspiel at the Wagon Wheel, were they won the third event.
Their ranks continued to grow. 30 women would now make the drive to the Wagon Wheel every Tuesday morning. There were also discussions starting to form their own women’s curling club.
Two of the women, Ruth Mendelson and Millie Seidl, were very vocal about equal membership for women. Partly due to their advocacy, when the Blackhawk Curling Club was formally organized in the Summer of 1966, the by-laws were established to include both men and women as regular members.
Section 2.02. Classification of Members. 1. Regular Members. Each Regular Member shall be a person of the age of eighteen (18) years or more. In the case of a husband and wife, both shall be considered a Regular Member. A Regular Member shall be entitled to full voting rights and all other privileges of membership.
As the fledgling club moved into its own facility at the Back of the Yards in 1968 evening curling was still a men’s domain, with the women playing during the day. This continued when the current facility at the 4-H Fairgrounds was opened in 1972. Finally in the 1977-1978 curling season, what was billed as the Monday Night Men’s League consisted of 5 all men’s and 2 all women’s teams. Future years added more mixed teams and the league dropped the Men’s notation and was just known as the Monday Night League.
The first women’s evening league was started in the1988-1989 season. The following season, 1989-1990, Nancy Wilhelm was elected President which was the first women's curling club president in the country. The hosting of Women’s First Chance was started in the early 1990s.
Information from the Rockton Township Historical Society