During the late 1920s and early '30s, women began to participate in organized sports on a scale not previously seen. One of the most prominent athletes from this time period was Ruth W. Black, a pioneer in the field of women's sports in northwestern Ontario.
Born in Swift Current, Saskatchewan in 1914, Ruth moved to Fort William as a young child. Excelling in basketball, hockey, softball and volleyball, she demonstrated her versatility by being active and competitive in nearly 10 different sports, including canoeing, gymnastics and tumbling, horseback riding, tennis and track and field.
A stand out on the basketball court, Ruth played on many championship teams for both Fort William Collegiate and the Fort William Vocational School. After graduating she was referee for the Girls Intercity High School League from 1934 to 1936 and played for the 'Y' on many championship teams in the Senior Women's League. On the volleyball court Ruth and her 'Y' teammates won the Women's Intercity League championship title for six consecutive years in the late 1930s and early '40s.
On the ice Ruth played senior women's hockey for the Fort William 'Y' team and was reported in the newspapers of the day as being a fine goal scorer and a strong skater with a powerful shot, leading her team in scoring one year while playing defence.
Getting involved with baseball at the age of 12 she played in the Senior Women's Intercity League with a variety of teams including the 'Y', Golden Sprays and the Port Arthur South Ends. As in her other sport endeavours, she claimed a number of championships, regularly contributing to her teams success at the plate and in the field playing practically all positions. In 1937 her talents saw her recruited by Schreiber to play in the Women's Ontario Softball playoffs. After little practice due to a stretch of cold fall weather and a long train ride the Schreiber team successfully faced a number of challenges from teams from southern Ontario, posting their only loss of the tournament in a game against Toronto in the finals.
Along with her unparalleled athletic accomplishments, this exceptional athlete would also leave her mark as a local hero for events that unfolded at the Lakehead Exhibition Grounds in 1947. A team of rampaging horses suddenly began to run amok, galloping with a large empty hay wagon in tow and heading straight for the food booths, when Ruth ran from the YWCA booth, caught the running team, gained control and brought them to a stop. For her actions, Ruth was awarded a Lifetime Pass by the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition "issued for outstanding gallantry" and was presented with the National Dow Award for "selfless heroism". In addition to her contributions in sports, Ruth contributed greatly to her community as a volunteer with many organizations and was instrumental in the development of Thunder Bay's International Friendship Gardens.
Remaining in the region until her death on August 22, 1995, Ruth Black will be remembered as a female pioneer from our region's sporting past and as an individual who cared deeply for the well being of her community, having left a number of financial bequests to a variety of organizations upon her passing.
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 28, 1985