eThe All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
Before we told our daughters that they could be anyone, or anything they wanted to be, we told them that they could only be what was acceptable for women to be, and that they could only do things that were considered “ladylike.” It was at this time, when the nation was frenzied with the business of war, that the women of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League decided that they could do and be whatever it was that they chose. These women broke free of the limitations that their family and society had set for them, and publicly broke into what had been an exclusively male sport up until that time.
To understand the significance of the league (which will further be referred to as the AAGPBL) you must first have an understanding of the role of women in society at this time. Post World War II, women had a very slight role in anything not concerning domestic issues. Public figures and decision-makers were male, and very few women were involved in anything having to with business or politics. Women were expected to be ladylike and well mannered at all times. Because of these factors it was rare to find a woman involved in any type of sport, especially those dominated by males.
The start of the war era came on the heels of a decade when women had seemingly taken a step backward in social and economic progress. The depression of the 1930’s had devastated the American economy. Women, especially married women, had bore the largest share of the burden. To help male workers get back on the job, national leaders called for married women in two-income families to give up their jobs. Several states had passed laws barring women from holding state jobs.
World War II brought drastic changes to the American woman’s life. The sudden rush to go to war had left the nation with a shortage of “manpower.” In response to this the government launched an ambitious campaign to convince women to join the war effort. Suddenly women were being called from their kitchens to work in the factories, being told that it was their patriotic duty. The famous “Rosie the Riveter” image arose from this movement. Rosie became a new image for women, being portrayed as strong, tough, and attractive. It was from this very image that the idea for the league was born.
The league was the brainchild of Philip K. Wrigley, president of the Wrigley chewing gum company, and owner of the Chicago Cubs National League baseball team. Wrigley was concerned with the future of baseball. The major leagues had already lost more than half of their players to the military. The minor leagues were even harder hit. By the start of the 1943 season, more than 3,000 minor leaguers had joined the service or the war effort. Only nine of the nations 26 minor leagues had enough men left to play.
Aside from this reason, there was concern over the continuation of baseball by several public figures, including President Roosevelt. It was thought that because of the long hours and demanding work of the war effort that it was important for the American people to have a way to blow off steam.
In the fall of 1942, Wrigley assigned a three-man team from the Cubs organization to look into developing a professional baseball league for women. His theory was that if Rosie the Riveter could keep wartime factories going, maybe Rosie the Right Fielder could do the same for baseball. After receiving positive feedback for the idea of a women’s baseball league, Wrigley dispatched thirty of his baseball scouts to search the U.S. and Canada for top women ball players. When looking for players, scouts were instructed to look not only at ability and talent, but also for women with “high moral standing,” and femininity.
Initial tryouts were held in a dozen major cities. In May 1943 some 280 of them were invited to Wrigley Field in Chicago for the final selection process. In Chicago officials looked on as players were put through a series of tests and in the end