Women’s rugby in Memphis was organized in 1976. An independent club, the Memphis Belles were basically girlfriends and wives of the players from the Memphis men’s clubs who decided they might as well play, since they were traveling anyway. The jersey’s design consisted of even two-inch hoops of black and red. The women also wore black warm-up jackets with the name of the club stitched in red script on the back. The women briefly toyed with the idea of calling the club the Bluff City Titties, but the more decorous and descriptive name “Memphis Belles” prevailed.
The coach of the Belles was Chris Butterick, who played fly-half for Old No. 7. Wives and girlfriends of several players of the men’s teams played for the Memphis Belles. Because women’s rugby was not yet an integral part of the American rugby scene, the Belles were not members of a union and were forced to travel extensively to find matches.
The Belle’s played in LSU’s Red Beans & Rice tournament (associated with the spring 1976 Rugby Nationals), and in the fall 1976 Houston Invitational at Rice University. Women’s teams participating in the Houston tournament were: Kansas State, Texas A&M, Hammond (La.) WRFC, Memphis Belles, LSU, Wichita WRFC, Austin WRFC, and the Boars WRFC. The Belles also played in the 1977 Ozark Union Tournament. Women’s teams at that tournament were Ozark Ladies, Memphis Belles, Univ. of Arkansas Women, Dallas Furies, and Webb City. The Belles practiced and played matches at the Audubon Park rugby pitch. The first Belle to score a try was Lauren Flynn.; she later married Buddy Adams of the Wanderers RFC.
Memphis Belles–1976 Roster
Jo Ann Early, Judy Early, Sandy Gingery, Shannon Goodman, Kay McMurry, Michele Goodman, Kris Palmer, Lauren Flynn, Vicki Bunn, Annie Morris, Geraldine du Grande, Nancy Wilkins, Alfreda Wilkins, Susan Wilkins, Linda Wilkins, Diane Rinks, Sandy Littell, Paula Baskin, Barbara Brewer, Kim McKee, Anita Clayton, Dironda Cagle, Demetria Bomar, Carole Carman, Maura Vaughn, Lynn Hurley, Diane Ashworth, Gail Nichols, Dell Callihan, Yvonne Arnold, Lucy Ballard, Beth Stong, Beverly Belote, and Ruby Parrish.