When trying to come up with a title for this blog, Lydia and I went through approximately 12,000 different suggestions (yes, A Blog of Their Own is taken and we love her) from our friends and family, not really loving anything that was proposed. It’s hard to strike a balance between emphasizing feminism and attacking sports fans, and we didn’t want to do that at all, since we count ourselves among them.
When our good friend Mike (who you will likely be hearing from here in the future) suggested “something related to Bloomer Girls” as a name for the blog, we thought we might have something. Mike wrote, “[t]he NY Bloomer Girls were the first women’s organized professional team in any major sport. For their first several years of existence, the owners were paying the players more than most men were being paid to play, and drew very well in barnstorming tours. They lasted until the Depression, when no one could really afford to do anything other than sell apples, apparently . . . . [M]ost of the women were actually from pre-Verrazano-Narrows Bridge Staten Island, believe it or not, and I think it would be a cool way to pay homage to an oft overlooked group of women in sports history.” Mike’s right – the Bloomer Girls are a perfect example of exactly what we love about gender and sports: women kicking ass, taking names, and proving that they can hold their own.
The first women’s baseball team was founded by Vassar College in 1866. Once Amelia Bloomer advocated for her eponymous loose pants, women hurried into them and onto the diamond, despite the fact that men were calling the teams “Bloomer Girls” in derision. These baseball barnstormers criss-crossed the country, challenging all-male teams to games and winning the hearts of fans everywhere. The Bloomer Girls teams weren’t all-female - each roster had at least one male player, often at catcher. But legend has it that one player, Jackie Mitchell of the Chattanooga Lookouts, struck out Babe Ruth in 1931. And although the women were subject to some derision (an October 25, 1897 article in the San Francisco Call about the Boston Bloomer Girls winning against the San Francisco Athletics stated that “[t]he young women came from Boston, all right; no other city on the continent could turn out such an aggregation. They laid aside their spectacles for the occasion, however, with results most disastrous to the game, for the majority of the members were unable to get their eyes on the ball when it was in the air, and when it was rolling along the ground they forgot that they did not have their aprons on and tried to stop it in ordinary woman fashion, with the result that the sphere would dodge through their bloomers in a most distressing manner.”), they won many games and found a lot of success in the barnstorming model until the teams folded due to a lack of funding during the Depression.
So we dedicate this blog to them: the women of baseball, back when women challenged the overwhelming place of men in sports without a second thought, and succeeded. And to the anonymous Bloomer Girl in our masthead, courtesy of the Library of Congress, thanks for making us smile every time we see your enthusiastic grin. We’ll name you eventually (Edith? Josephine?), and thanks for being our inspiration.