Circa 1926-- NFL teams such as the Frankford Yellow Jackets fielded women's teams for the purpose of halftime entertainment.
Circa 1965 or 1966-- Cleveland talent agent Sid Friedman started a women's semipro tackle football league as a "gimmick." This league was originally called the Women's Professional Football League.
1970-- Patricia Barzi Palinkas became the first woman to ever play on a men's semipro football team when she joined the Orlando Panthers.
1971-- Sid Friedman's original WPFL had grown to include teams in such cities ass Cleveland, Toledo, Toronto, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. Two other teams, the Detroit Fillies and Pittsburgh Powderkegs, were owned and operated independently of Friedman's league.
1974-- The National Women's Football League was formed. This newly established league consisted of several teams from previous incarnations of women's football. The original team lineup was as follows:
Dallas Bluebonnets, Fort Worth Shamrocks, Columbus pacesetters, Toledo Troopers, Los Angeles Dandelions, California Mustangs, and Detroit Demons.
1976--The National Women's Football League added several new teams and realigned into three divisions: Eastern, Southern and Western.
1976 NWFL Team Lineup
Philadelphia Queen Bees
Middletown, OH Mustangs
Oklahoma City Dolls
Houston Hurricanes (a.k.a. Her-ricanes)
Dallas-Fort Worth Shamrocks
San Antonio Flames
Los Angeles Dandelions
San Diego Lobos
By the mid-1970s, the average NWFL franchise cost $10,000 to start up.
In August 1976, the Oklahoma City Dolls, a new team, handed the Toledo Troopers their first ever defeat: 14-8 in Oklahoma City. The two teams met each other in the first official NWFL Championship Game. Toledo initially claimed a 13-12 victory over Oklahoma City after a game-tying PAT attempt by the Dolls was ruled no good. However, after further review of the game films, the game was declared a 13-13 tie, and the Dolls and Troopers had to share the league title.
Toledo's record from 1971 through 1976 stood at 39 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie.
In 1978, the California-based NWFL franchises broke away from the league to form the Western States Women's Professional Football League. This spin-off league, run by Los Angeles Dandelions owner Russell Molzahn, consisted of the following teams: Los Angeles Dandelions, Hollywood Stars, Mesa (AZ) American Girls, Phoenix Cowgirls, Tucson (AZ) Wild Kittens, Long Beach Queens, and Southland (CA) Cowgirls. This spin-off league was formed largely because the NWFL decided to limit intersectional play due to travel costs.
The State of the National Women's Football League As of 1981
The once-mighty Toledo Troopers folded before the 1980 season due to financial problems.
The entire Southern Division of the NWFL had to disband in 1980 because the Lawton Tornadoes, who began play in 1978, were under-financed and the league did not want to play with just a two-team division. Lawton never again fielded an NWFL team after 1980.
The Oklahoma City Dolls suspended operations following the 1979 season. An attempt to revive the franchise in 1982 failed.
By 1982, the NWFL consisted solely of teams based in the states of Ohio and Michigan.
NWFL in the Mid-1980s
By 1986, the National Women's Football League had undergone a period of severe contractions. For one thing, the NWFL had become a regional setup limited to the Midwest. In addition, the number of teams decreased from 12 plus in the mid-1970s to just these six: Columbus Pacesetters (the last remaining original NWFL franchise from 1974), Cleveland Brewers, Grand Rapids Carpenters, Kalamazoo Rainbows, Lansing Unicorns, and Toledo Furies.
According to a late-1980s edition of Ed Kobak's Comprehensive Directory of Sports Addresses, the NWFL took a year off to restructure around 1987.
By 1988, the NWFL had broken off into two separate organizations: the Toledo-based NWFL and the Women's Tackle Football Association, based in Grand Rapids, MI and run by NWFL veteran Mary Lohrstorfer. From what I understand, the latter league wanted to continue to play tackle football, while such remaining NWFL teams as the Cleveland Brewers and Columbus Pacesetters wanted out of the tackle football business.
The Cleveland Brewers decided to take up flag-touch football and persuaded the Columbus team to join them.
Key NWFL Rules
The National Women's Football League's official ball in the late 1970s was the Wilson TDY model designed for junior high school team use.
Point after touchdown kicks were worth two points instead of one, while run or pass post-touchdown conversions were only worth one point.