Women in Baseball
To mark the convergence of Women’s History Month and the upcoming start of the baseball season, we wanted to feature three sports cards featuring female baseball players. We were excited to discover these intriguing items with a scrapbook containing several hundred sports cards (these were featured in an October blog post).
Preliminary research indicates that the women’s baseball cards date to the 1880s. Each card measures approximately 1.5 inches wide by 2.5 inches tall. In addition to showing a picture of the athlete, the front of each card also lists the position she plays as well as the name “Dixie Cigarettes”; like men’s cards from that era and the early twentieth century, tobacco companies produced baseball cards as promotional tools. Unlike men’s cards, the names of these female players are not included; as a result, at this time they have not been identified and nothing is known about them. The back of each card is blank.
Even though baseball is currently regarded as a sport for men, this has not always been the case. In her article “Transition of Women’s Baseball,” Gai Ingham Berlage writes that “from 1866 to 1935, women and girls were actively involved in amateur, semiprofessional, and professional baseball. On playgrounds, in high schools, in colleges, on industrial teams, on professional barnstorming teams, women and girls played baseball and excelled.” It has only been since 1935 or so that “softball [has] almost completely replaced baseball as a sport for women.” Beginning at that time, “baseball as a male domain and softball as the female equivalent became the cultural norm.” Notably, “this transition from women’s baseball to women’s softball was so complete that the public was no longer aware that women had ever played baseball” (72). As a result, when Philip K. Wrigley developed the All-American Girls’ Baseball League in 1943, people incorrectly believed it was an “unprecedented idea” (77). Likewise, when A League of Their Own, a film about the league, was released in 1992, “it was a revelation to the public” (72).
To read more about the history of women in baseball, check out Berlage’s complete article, published in the journal Nine in 2000, by clicking here. (Note: article is a PDF document.)