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The All-American Girls Baseball League: They Looked Like Women and Played like Men By Emily Rayford

Published Spring 2004

When the United States entered the Second World War in 1 41! the "proper# role of $omen in %merican society! as described by Barbara Welter in her 1 && retrospecti'e essay on 1

century 'alues! "(he )ult of *omesticity and (rue Womanhood!# still consisted of the

four main pillars of $omanhood ++ purity! piety! domesticity! and submissi'eness,1 %ccordingly! the emerging contrasts bet$een the subser'ient place of $omen detailed by Welter and that of "Rosie the Ri'eter!# the $artime symbol of feminism! not femininity! $as dramatic, -t $as in this highly+charged $artime en'ironment that the %ll %merican .irls Professional Baseball /eague 0%%.PB/1 $as formed in 1 42, (he %%.PB/ meant to catapult $omen3s sports to a professional le'el! challenging %merican society to accept female players in a sport that had pre'iously been e4clusi'ely male, Philip Wrigley! the mastermind behind the %%.PB/! reali5ed that to be successful! he $ould need to merge the image of Rosie $ith the more con'entional perception of %merican $omen,2 -nstead! Wrigley erred on the side of $hat Welter described as "true $omanhood,# Rather than promoting $omen as independent! confident and successful athletes! Wrigley3s %%.PB/ reinforced the stereotype of $omen as domestic and feminine! only this time! on a baseball diamond,

%fter the outbrea6 of World War --! more and more %merican men left their homes and 7obs for the battlefield and $omen began to assume male roles and responsibilities, Women became acti'ely in'ol'ed in the $ar efforts! $or6ing as "part of the assembly line8 $or6ing for 'ictory,#2 %s the $ar continued! the "traditional# domestic roles of $omen in %merican society became irrele'ant and a ne$ 'ision of $omanhood that embodied confidence and independence emerged, % song paying tribute to "Rosie the Ri'eter# re+ enforced the image of $omen as hard+$or6ing! dynamic contributors to the $ar effort! capable of doing man3s $or69 Rosie's got a boy riend! "harlie# "harlie! he's a Marine# Rosie is $rotecting "harlie! Working o%ertime on the ri%eting machine#& %gainst this bac6drop! Philip Wrigley! heir to che$ing gum fortune! baseball afficionado and o$ner of the )hicago )ubs! reali5ed that the %merican public $ould be outraged to see "generously paid athletes s$atting balls $hile their lo'ed ones $ere dying on foreign shores,#: When Wrigley reali5ed that college and professional baseball players had begun to enlist in the armed forces! he started loo6ing for a ne$ spar6 to the game, What he found $ere some 'ery talented $omen, Wrigley $as $ell a$are of the gro$ing recognition of $omen3s softball! 6no$n then as "6itten ball,# -n fact! he noted that the sport3s gro$ing popularity $as "impossible to o'erloo6,#& (eams sprung up around the country! albeit $ith se4ist names li6e the ")ur'aceous )uties!# but the athletes $ere respected for the most part and regarded as "sportsmen# by their relati'ely small cadre of fans,; <o$e'er! for the more traditional+

minded! a $oman3s place did not include a baseball diamond! nor did these traditionalists belie'e that a $oman should aspire to $hat $as generally regarded as a man3s 7ob, %lthough the female softball leagues recei'ed some public support! they also encountered significant opposition because they offered a non+traditional form of "employment# for $omen,= While Rosie the Ri'eter resulted in a ne$found degree of respect for $omen! the "cult# of true $omanhood still had a stronghold on %merican society in the mid+1 40s, Wrigley reasoned that in order for $omen3s softball to be accepted as part of mainstream %merican society! he needed to modify the game, Wrigley3s concept of $omen3s baseball centered around a truly "feminine game $ithout ta6ing a$ay any of the thrilling action,# <e belie'ed that in order for his league to succeed and be profitable! his players needed to be seen as $omen first,10 Wrigley belie'ed this approach $ould satisfy the critics $ho thought that professional $omen athletes $ere not appropriately feminine! $hile appeasing the fans $ho $anted to attend good games and see real baseball action, <is league $ould feature players $ho $ere noticeably feminine but also outstanding athletes, -n order to >ualify for the %%.PB/! the $omen $ere e4pected to dress! act! and represent femininity,11 ?or e4ample! "Rosie the Ri'eter $ent about her business in slac6s!# $hile Wrigley3s %ll+%merican players dressed "completely differently!# $earing short dresses! stoc6ings! and ma6eup,12 Wrigley modified the rules of softball! ga'e the female pitchers a man3s baseball and started $ith four teams9 the @enosha )ometsA the Racine BellesA the Roc6ford PeachesA and the South Bend Blue So4,12 Bost %%.PB/ players had played softball prior to 7oining the league! and generally! they $ere far from polished, Bany reinforced the 1 40 image of a female athlete as a "tomboy# $ith a "mannish bob!# emulating a man,14 Wrigley re7ected the premise that female

athletes e'o6ed masculinity and began to build a league $here the players "loo6ed li6e $omen and played li6e men!# a phrase $hich e'entually became the league motto,1: ?or e4ample! prospecti'e %%.PB/ players could not ha'e short hair or $ear pants on or off the field, (he players had to display "charm# $hen being recruited! and $earing ma6eup $as an absolute necessity, Wrigley recruited $omen $ho $ould dra$ men to the ballpar6! follo$ing the dictum9 "Beauty counted as much as talent in filling team rosters,#1& @ate Conderau! a catcher for the .rand Rapids )hic6s! remembers the difficulty $omen athletes had at that time! "-n order for people to accept $omen playing baseball! to accept $omen in professional sports $hile still being $omen! it $as important not to emulate men in ho$ $e loo6ed and acted8 the fan thought it $as important,# 1; Wrigley $ent to great lengths to ensure the league3s emphasis on femininity $as understood by players! their managers! their chaperones! and especially the press, Press releases "centered on domesticity# at e'ery turn! and the compulsory charm school sessions for players $ere the sub7ect of the lead paragraph in 'irtually e'ery article $ritten about the league,1= (he typical %%.PB/ maga5ine photo did not feature outstanding plays made by the female athletes during the games! but rather sho$ed the players lined up in the dressing room prior to the game! fluffing their hair, % picture of *ottie Schroder! an all+star shortstop! featured her stepping out of the sho$er $ith the caption9 "*ottie and teammates li'e a double life! they do their $or6 li6e men and dream of li'ing li6e all $omen do after the ball game ends,#1 When feature articles $ere $ritten about a specific player! they did not discuss her accomplishments on the diamond! but centered on more "$omanly acti'ities# li6e house$or6

or piano playing, Wrigley and his ad'ertising director! %rthur Beyerhoff! repeatedly as6ed the media to point out "ho$ their players e4emplified the feminine ideal#20 *uring spring training! the $omen $ould endure grueling practices during the day and then suffer through an e'en more tedious regimen at night9 that of ")harm School,# Wrigley $anted to ensure that his players $ere "perfectly female!# $hich meant that they needed to sit! stand! spea6! dress! and most of all! act li6e the "true# $oman,21 %ny rough edges the players might ha'e had upon entrance to the league $ere supposed to be smoothed out by the charm school, %fter charm school! the players $ere paraded li6e starlets to a "sensation hungry media,#22 (he charm school course $as led by <elena Rubenstein! "$hose chain of beauty salons had made her synonymous $ith the feminine ideal,# 22 Upon entrance to the charm school! players $ere issued binders $ith information about ho$ to $al6! sit li6e a lady! apply ma6eup! put on coats! and introduce themsel'es, )harm school $as tedious for most of the players $ho resented their obligation to learn ho$ to become e'en more "feminine,# (he

mandatory attendance at charm school left the players belie'ing that being "polished# $as more important than their athletic abilities, Bany players $ere so offended they tried to flee do$n the fire escape,24 Upon being signed by the league! the members of the %%.PB/ $ere issued The Guide for All-American Girls; How to Look Better, Feel Better, and Be More Popular, (his guide e4plained in great detail ho$ $omen should comport themsel'es correctly in public, Sections of this handboo6 included9 a suggested beauty routineA instructions on a ho$ to ta6e sho$ers properlyA information on ho$ to brush one3s hair in a ladyli6e fashionA directions on ho$ to care for teeth! mouth! and handsA a section on ho$ a $oman3s eyes $ere "the $indo$s

of the soul!# and $hy hair $as a "$oman3s cro$ning glory,#2: (he guide included information on physical fitness! $ardrobe eti>uette! and public relations, (his handboo6 also outlined the rules of the league! $hich included an absolute ban on smo6ing and drin6ingA mandatory curfe$s 0generally t$o hours after a game1A mandatory chaperone appro'al of all social engagementsA and a prohibition against sociali5ing $ith players from other %%.PB/ teams,2& Bany of the players $ho 'alued their freedom and independence belie'ed that the rules and beha'ior guidelines $ere absurd, ?or e4ample! Bary Pratt! a pitcher for the Roc6ford Peaches! protested that she and her fello$ players did not need a pamphlet to tell them ho$ to sho$er,2; Det! Wrigley belie'ed that the guidelines set forth in the handboo6 $ere more important to the success of his league than the actual game, <is 'ision $as for each game to be as much a "sho$# as it $as an athletic e'ent, (herefore! the $ay his "girls# presented themsel'es $as e'ery bit as important at their athleticism,2= Each %%.PB/ team $as assigned a chaperone, )haperones $ere described as Eolder and more e4perienced $omen,E2 )haperones $ould tra'el $ith their teams and $ere paid to enforce strict rules of Econduct! dress! and deportment,E20 While under the $atchful eye of a chaperone the players $ere forbidden to s$ear! drin6! gamble! $ear shorts or slac6s in public! or go out on dates alone,21 E'ery social engagement had to be cleared $ell ahead of time by the chaperone! and there $ere strict curfe$s, (he Guide for All American Girls! How to Look Better, Feel Better, and "e More PopularE directed the players to9 "Be helpful! friendly and cooperati'e $ith her FchaperoneG and do not ta6e ad'antage of her good nature, She has a direct responsibility to you! to your family! to the club $hich employs her and to the /eague

$hich she represents, %dhere to the rules and regulations in a manner that $ill not reflect badly upon her,#22 %lthough these instructions $ere spelled out in the guideboo6! many players had a hard time ta6ing chaperones seriously and in some cases resented them, ?or e4ample! the ball players often played tric6s on their chaperones and snuc6 out fre>uently in search of a good time, Bany players $ere bitter about being under the constant super'ision of another $oman! $hose primary 7ob $as to enforce femininity, 22 Wrigley! ho$e'er! belie'ed that the chaperones $ere a public relations selling point for his league, <e referred to chaperones as the Eunsung heroines $ho ga'e the /eague its stamp of respectability! a sort of .ood <ouse6eeping Seal of %ppro'al,E24 )haperones themsel'es had to abide by the league dress code and e'en had to $ear a modified team uniform $hen present at a game, Since chaperones $ere in the public eye along $ith the teams they represented! they too $ere chosen for their loo6s and femininity, 2: WrigleyHs concept of the ideal chaperone $as a $oman $ho $as $ell groomed! mature! and charming, <e hired chaperones more for their ability to ser'e as a feminine role model! than their ability to strictly enforce the rules,2& (he athletes3 uniforms $ere e'en more incongruous than the guideboo6 gi'en to them, Wrigley flatly re7ected the "unladyli6e costumes# pre'iously $orn by softball players,2; (he official uniform of the %%.PB/ $as a belted tunic dress $ith short slee'es that buttoned up the front, (hese pastel dresses featured a flared s6irt hemmed si4 inches abo'e the 6nee, Small feminine style caps $ere re>uired! as $ere stoc6ings, (hese uniforms pro7ected one thing! "se4,# (he s6irts may ha'e been feminine! but they also $ere pro'ocati'e, %s one

reporter commented! "if by se4 is meant the normal appeal of the feminine mode8 se4 is a legitimate element of the league3s success,#2= (he uniform made play difficult, Pitchers struggled to 6eep their s6irts out of their $indup motions and base runners hoped that their s6irts $ould not fly into the air! although $hen a player slid and her s6irt $ent flying o'er her head! the "fans roared,#2 (o ma6e matters e'en $orse! sliding into a base $as 'ery difficult since there $as no leg protection from the turf, (he players often had abrasions called "stra$berries!# $hich $ere a more painful and larger form of rug burn, Bale managers often had to a'ert their eyes $hen a player slid because the tas6 gre$ too painful to $atch,40 )atchers had to $ear stylish hairdos under their catcher3s mas6s $hich made their 7ob behind home plate 'irtually impossible, (he $omen $ere not permitted to $ear batting helmets either! because they $ere part of the masculine uniform,41 (he sport of baseball $as compromised by the e4ceedingly feminine uniforms, ?or Wrigley! pro'iding the $omen $ith the uniforms and e>uipment that $ould ha'e allo$ed them to play safely and li6e true athletes $as ne'er an option, %lthough Wrigley3s standards of femininity $ere high! the $omen $ere still e4pected to "play li6e men!E and the pressure to appear feminine coupled $ith the necessity to play $inning baseball pro'ided many contradictions,42 Bany today might as6! "What $oman could possibly $ant to play under such ridiculous restrictionsI (he ans$er $as simple9 they had fe$ other choices,# 42 Bost players $ere fierce competitors and e'entually gained the respect of fans $ho came to belie'e that a "truly feminine creature $ho can reach the top is refreshing and pleasing,#44 *espite the league3s emphasis on the 'irtues of "true $omanhood!# the fact that

$omen $ere playing professional team sports $as unusual in the 1 40s, %lthough these $omen had to play baseball in dresses! attend beauty school! and ma6e use of mandatory beauty 6its and guides! the league did allo$ as many as ;00 $omen to play baseball J heretofore! a "man3s sport# ++ at a professional le'el,4: (he fact that the %%.PB/ endured until 1 :4! $ell after the soldiers of World War -- returned home! reinforces the popularity of such a concept, (he $artime replacement to men3s baseball sur'i'ed t$el'e seasons and more than a million fans attended %%.PB/ games $hen the league reached its 5enith in 1 4=,4& Wrigley3s league reinforced the image of $omen as pure! pious! and domesticated! but it $as the players themsel'es $ho made important progress in the battle for female e>uality on the playing field, Unli6e anyone $ho had gone before them! these $omen had a chance to pitch a baseball! s$ing a bat and steal a base before a cro$d of cheering fans $ho had paid to see them play, While they had to pro'e themsel'es in the conte4t of femininity! the %%.PB/ players demonstrated that $omen could "do 7ust about anything,#4; Bany %%.PB/ players e'en became heroines for young girls,4= Pretty and "perfect!# the $omen of the %%.PB/ may ha'e contributed as much as the $artime ERosiesE in brea6ing ne$ ground for $omen in the decades to come,


Barbara Welter! "(he )ult of *omesticity and (rue Womanhood!# 1 && Lhttp9MM$$$,pin5ler,comMushistoryMcult$o,html,N 01& %pril 20021, 2 /ois Bro$ne! .irls of Summer9 -n (heir O$n /eague 0(oronto! )anada9 <arper)ollins Publishers /(*! 1 21! 2 , 2 "Rosie the Ri'eter!# n,d,! Lhttp9MM$$$,5api4,comMlaurelMrosie,htmlN 01; %pril 20021, 4 "Rosie the Ri'eter,# : Sherro$! &, & Bro$ne! 1=, ; "/adies of the /ittle *iamond!# (ime! 14 Pune 1 42! ;2, = Sue Bacy! % Whole Ke$ Ball .ame9 (he Story of the %ll %merican .irl3s Professional Baseball /eague 0Ke$ Dor69 Penguin .roup! 1 21! 1&, Bacy! 11, 10 %nne Pohnson! .reat Women in Sports 0*etroit9 Cisible -n6 Press! 1 &1! =, 11 %nne Pohnson! =, 12 Bacy! 12, 12 (ime! ;4, 14 Bro$ne! 1&, 1: Bro$ne! 2;, 1& %nne Pohnson! =, 1; Susan E, Pohnson! When Women Played <ardball 0Seattle! Seal Press! 1 41! 1:;, 1= Bro$ne! 42, 1 Bacy! 1:, 20 Bacy! 1:, 21 (ime! ;4, 22 Bro$ne! ;, 22 Bro$ne! 24 Bacy! 14, 2: "% .uide for %ll %merican .irls9 <o$ to /oo6 Better! ?eel Better! and Be Bore Popular!# (he Kational Baseball <all of ?ame! 1 42! Lhttp9MM$$$,baseballhalloffame,orgN 01: %pril 20021, 2& "% .uide for %ll %merican .irls!# 01; %pril 20021, 2; Susan Pohnson! 1: , 2= %nne Pohnson! 11, 2 Bro$ne! 2=, 20 %nne Pohnson! , 21 %nne Pohnson! 10, 22 "% .uide for %ll %merican .irls!# 01: %pril 20021, 22 %nne Pohnson! 10, 24 Bro$ne! &&, 2: Bro$ne! ;0, 2& Bro$ne! &;, 2; (ime! ;4, 2= Susan Pohnson! 1:0, 2 Susan Pohnson! 14 , 40 Bro$ne! 41, 41 %ll %merican .irl3s Professional Baseball /eague! n,d,! Lhttp9MMaagpbl,org N 020 Barch 20021, 42 Pac6 ?incher! "(he Belles of the Ballgame Were a <it $ith (heir ?ans!# Smithsonian Baga5ine! Puly 1 = ! ==,


Bro$ne! 2:, Bacy! 1=, 4: W,), Badden! (he Women of the %ll+%merican .irls Professional Baseball /eague, 0Pefferson! Korth )arolina! Bc?arland Q )ompany! -nc,! 1 ;1! 1, 4& Badden! 2, 4; Susan Pohnson! 1:;, 4= Susan Pohnson! 1:4,

Wor6s )ited "% .uide for %ll+%merican .irls9 <o$ to /oo6 Better! ?ell Better! and Be Bore Popular,# (he Kational Baseball <all of ?ame, 1 42! LhttpMM$$$,baseballhalloffame,org,MeducationMprimaryRsourcesM$omenMdocumentR01RpageR01 ,htm,N 01: and 1; %pril 20021, "%ll %merican .irl3s Professional Baseball /eague,# n,d, Lhttp9MMaagpbl,org N 020 Barch 20021, Bro$ne! /ois, .irls of Summer9 -n (heir O$n /eague, (oronto! )anada9 <arper)ollins Publishers /(*! 1 2,

?incher! Pac6, "(he Belles of the Ballgame Were a <it $ith (heir ?ans!# Smithsonian Baga5ine! Puly 1 = , Pohnson! %nne, .reat Women in Sports, *etroit9 Cisible -n6 Press! 1 Pohnson! Susan, When Women Played <ardball, Seattle9 Seal Press! 1 "/adies of the /ittle *iamond,# (ime! 14 Pune 1 42, Bacy! Sue, % Whole Ke$ Ball .ame9 (he Story of the %ll %merican .irl3s Professional Baseball /eague, Ke$ Dor69 Penguin .roup! 1 2, Badden! W,), (he Women of the %ll+%merican .irls Professional Baseball /eague, Pefferson! Korth )arolina9 Bc?arland Q )ompany! -nc,! 1 ;, "Rosie the Ri'eter!# n,d, Lhttp9MM$$$,5api4,comMlaurelMrosie,html,N 01; %pril 20021, Sherro$! Cictoria, "%ll+%merican Baseball /eague!# Encyclopedia of Women in Sports, Santa Barbara9 %B)+)/-O! -nc,! 1 &, Welter! Barbara, "(he )ult of *omesticity and (rue Womanhood!# 1 &&, Lhttp9MM$$$,pin5ler,comMushistoryMcult$o,html,N 01& %pril 20021, &, 4,