Gladys Fry was one of the best players on one of the most dominant teams in sports history.
Gladys Fry (’30 BSc Home Ec) was born near Kitscoty, Alta., in 1907. Four years later, her family moved to Edmonton, where her father, John W. Fry, served as a city alderman from 1932 to 1937 and as mayor of Edmonton between 1937 and 1945.
Fry studied home economics at the University of Alberta, where she was also an elite athlete. She was a sprinter, high jumper and discus thrower, and also captain of the women’s basketball team.
In 1927, while playing for the Varsconas, a joint team from Strathcona High and the U of A, Fry caught the eye of Edmonton Grads coach J. Percy Page. Page asked her to join the Grads, and over the next three years, Fry played for both the Grads and Varsity, the U of A’s women’s basketball team.
From 1915 to 1940, the Edmonton Grads won 502 of the 522 official games they played across North America and Europe. They won Alberta’s provincial championships 23 of the 24 years they participated, won every game they ever played in the Western Canadian championships, and never lost a Canadian championship series. They won the Underwood International Trophy — pitting Canadian teams against American teams — every year from 1923 to 1940. They attended four Olympics, winning all 27 of their exhibition games (women’s basketball was not recognized as an official Olympic sport until 1976), and were world champions from 1937 to 1940.
Fry played for the Grads from 1927 to 1936, and was one of the team’s best players. The team’s only left-handed player, she was dominant on the backboards. She is fourth all-time on the team’s career scoring list, averaging 10.4 points per game in 161 games. She was so good that in 1930, when both the Grads and Varsity made it to the provincial championships, there was disagreement over which team Fry should play on. To decide the matter, the two teams played a special game without Fry, with the winner claiming Fry as their own. The Grads, determined to have Fry on their team, beat Varsity 50–7 to ensure her services.
Fry worked at the U of A as a lab technician before moving to Calgary with her husband Jack. She remained active in sports all her life, and volunteered for numerous charitable organizations. She is a member of the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame (1983), the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame (1974) and the U of A’s Sports Wall of Fame (1986). Gladys Fry died on March 17, 1991, at the age of 84.
For almost as long as there’s been a Canada, there’s been a University of Alberta. Over the next year, in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, we’re proudly celebrating the people, achievements and ideas that contributed to the making of a confederation.