Almost from the start, women and baseball were part
of the scene. At picnics and social gatherings, with friends and
family, women in full Victorian dress played the game, running the
bases, fielding grounds, taking their turns at bat.
It was felt that the rowdiness of the sport - fights among fans,
cat-calling and throwing objects--even violence towards players and
umpires – could be lessened with the presence of women. Teams set up
tents and refreshments for female fans. Admission was often free of
charge to local games. Ladies Day, a late 19th century promotion, came
into being. It was designed to attract women fans to baseball, to help
increase attendance, quell the fervor of the sometimes unruly crowds.
There were women who opted for the right to play the game under
organized conditions. Vassar College, seeking more exercise outlets
for women, formed recreational teams in the 1860s. Soon other colleges
did the same. None of these teams lasted, however, because these
colleges bowed to the pressures of disapproving mothers and sexist
men. The teams were disbanded.
In 1880,women at Smith College attempted to create a program of
organized baseball teams. The same negativity was in play. Teams were
unable to come into existence.
Women’s touring teams, however, did attract a following. Showmen with
an entrepreneurial feel organized women’s teams as barnstorming
novelty acts across America. The Springfield ( Illinois) Blondes and
Brunettes was reportedly the first team out there. It went out of
business after four games. The sexism of the day was on display with
comments like "a revolting exhibition of impropriety." Promoters in
Philadelphia fielded two teams in 1883 - the Red Stockings and the
Blue Stockings. Free admission and the novelty of it all drew more
than 500 women spectators for a match in Camden, New Jersey.
Afterwards admission for women was 15 cents - they got in for
By the 1890s, women's teams, sometimes described as "bloomer girls,"
played across the country. One Reading, Pennsylvania men’s team even
fielded a woman pitcher to boost attendance. Even though she pitched
only part of the ninth inning, the local paper commented, " For a
woman, she is a success."
Sadly, sexism against women participating in organized baseball was
part of the cultural milieu. On March 12 ,1892, a bill before the New
York State Assembly sought "To prohibit the employment of females as
And so it went, but better times were ahead for baseball and
especially for women who one day would “have a league of their own.”