A truly American-born sport, roller derby began in the 1930s in Chicago. Over the decades, the sport has resurfaced in various forms, with the most recent resurgence starting with the 2003 development of flat track roller derby in Austin, Texas, by the Texas Rollergirls.
Fast-forward more than a decade and a half and there are now more than 1,400 flat track derby leagues and 25,000 skaters worldwide, with more forming every week.
While there are a few different organizations and rule-sets that these leagues operate under, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) is the one that ILWR operates under, and the rule-set that a majority of leagues utilize—whether they are WFTDA members or not. The modern game of roller derby is a genuine athletic competition complete with well-defined rules, divisions, and tournaments.
The Ithaca League of Women Rollers began in 2008 with the launch of the SufferJets team by founding members Danine Dibble, Sarah Evanega, Kitty Gifford, Ashlee McCaskill, and Beth Skwarecki. In 2010, the league grew and added an additional adult team, the BlueStockings, as well as a junior league for girls ages 8 to 17. After serving in the WFTDA apprentice program, the ILWR was accepted as a full member in 2011, and is currently ranked 100 out of 177 member leagues.
Currently in the ILWR, there about 40 women skaters who compete on the two teams, ranging in age from 18 to 48. A number of officials are associated with the league, and they include the skating referees, as well as non-skating officials who serve as scorekeepers, stats takers, and penalty trackers. Volunteers are an important part of the ILWR, and many community members serve on committees, assist with event production, and provide guidance to the development of the league.
The ILWR flagship roller derby team, the Sufferjets, played their first home game in May 2008. Since then, the league has continued to grow, fostering the formation of a second team, the BlueStockings, in 2010. That same year, ILWR launched its junior league division for youth ages 8-17, called the Ithaca League of Junior Rollers (ILJR).
The Ithaca SufferJets team name pays allegiance to local area ties to the women’s suffrage movement—nearby Seneca Falls hosted the 1848 Women’s Rights Convention. Following a public relations campaign to invite the public to help name the league’s second team, the name BlueStockings was selected for its reference to intellectual strength and empowerment, as well as roller derby’s emphasis on physical strength.
The ILWR is a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit organization that works to provide local and international athletic opportunities for women and youth, and to promote the wellbeing of our region through charitable donations, volunteering and community outreach for numerous community oriented not-for-profits and women-centered organizations.
The league enjoys a supportive fan base in the Ithaca community, and makes regular appearances at events, schools, and festivals. A portion of the home bout proceeds are donated to local charities, and since 2008 the ILWR has given nearly $15,000 to organizations such as:
- Women’s Opportunity Center
- Ithaca Skate Park
- The Advocacy Center
- Family Reading Partnership
- Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation
- Ithaca Foodnet Meals on Wheels
- Books Thru Bars
- Big Brothers/ Big Sisters
- The Women’s Fund of the Community Foundation
- Ithaca Children’s Garden
- Community Dispute Resolution Center