Drexel’s women’s rifle team started in 1919 becoming one of the best and most accomplished in the country shortly after. Despite the constant differential treatment for their gender, the team managed to keep their success for nearly 40 years.
The May 26, 1950 edition of The Triangle writes, “Riffletes placed 2nd.” The Drexel’s women’s rifle team started as an extension of the men’s ROTC rifle program in 1919 according to a 2016 Drexel One article. The team’s lack of a big budget and support compared to the men’s team only let it play against local teams such as University of Pennsylvania, George Washington University and Arcadia University most of the time. Despite that, the Drexel team was constantly placed among the top five in the country with very few losses during their glory days.
According to the April 23, 1954 edition of The Triangle, Drexel women’s rifle team was called the Annie Oakleys, after the famous American sharpshooter who dominated the men’s shooting industry at the time. Annie Oakley was aware of the team’s existence and mentioned the team in a speech during a 1923 Phillies game, “I only wish I had the opportunity to give them a little instruction. I can tell by the photographs… that they do not hold their rifles quite right. I could rectify that easily and make them better than they are, even if they have never been beaten,” according to a 2016 Drexel One article.
The women won multiple team awards as well as various individual awards such as bronze medals in almost all competitions and multiple sharpshooter awards. In 1951, they were placed second in an 18-team competition for the National Rifle Association. In addition to that, the Drexel’s rifle team 1925 picture currently has two million views on Imgur and Reddit with a lot of sympathy from both history and sports lovers.
The sport always required a lot of safety risks and expensive renovations. Despite the women’s team’s infamous success, the rifle team was mostly men by 2003. The university eventually shut down the program entirely in the same year due to safety concerns and lack of leadership. Women’s history has us remembering one of the most successful women’s teams in Drexel’s history.