Photographic Evidence: Bloomer Girl

First published on November 7, 2015.

If blatant sexism gets you all riled up then maybe this isn’t the post for you. To be fair, this is sexism from the late 19th and early 20th century, but it still made me want to break something, like maybe a window with a baseball. Speaking of baseball, that’s what this post is about, more specifically, women’s baseball from the late 19th and early 20th century (nice segue, right?). I found this picture among my collection:

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To me this is clearly a women in a baseball uniform. She’s got an “A” on her right arm, which may indicate that she was the assistant captain. There is nothing written on the back of this picture so I don’t know who this is. She is also wearing a uniform so it’s hard to date the photograph. However, I found this other picture in my collection:

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Again, to me I think that this woman is the same woman in the baseball uniform. At first I didn’t realize this, but she might also be wearing a baseball uniform. There is something written on the back of this “May love from Aunt Mary”. “May” refers to my great-grandmother Mae but she did not have an Aunt Mary so this must be a family friend (something to uncover in another post). I thought it was amazing that I had these two pictures of a woman in a baseball uniform and I wanted to learn more.

It’s very likely that this woman was a Bloomer Girl. Bloomer Girls wore bloomers which were loose fitting pants invented by Amelia Bloomer. They played baseball, “barnstorming” throughout the country, challenging local teams. The Bloomer Girl teams were mostly women, but usually had to have one male member. The first teams formed in the 1890s and lasted until 1934. Women on these teams got an opportunity to travel the country and get paid for playing baseball.

I had trouble finding out information about Bloomer Girls. Most of the articles had the exact same information and were an introduction to the All American Girls Baseball League (like in A League of Their Own). One website had links to old articles about the Bloomer Girls. With these articles and suggestions for research, I was able to find more articles and learn a little more about the Bloomer Girls.

As I mentioned, there would be some blatant sexism in this post and all of it comes from these articles. One of the earliest articles, from The San Francisco Call on October 25, 1897, describes a game between the Bosom Bloomer Girls and The San Francisco Athletics and keep in mind the Bloomer Girls won this match.

The majority of the members [of the Boston Bloomer Girls] 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 women fashion, with the result that the sphere would doge through their bloomers in a most distressing matter.

This article did like one of the female players, Maud Nelson, or Maudie as the article calls her.

Maudie is the pitcher and she knows her business…tore her bloomers in sliding feet first like a real baseball player.

Another article in The San Francisco Call on July 15, 1901 comments about the Bloomer Girls, saying, “They could not play – not to any great extent”

In Richmond, Virginia they weren’t any easier on the Bloomer Girls, the headline of an article for the Richmond Dispatch on April 21, 1902 was “Ball Park Diamond Chortled with Feminine Curves”. This article goes on to describe how each girl looked, from their faces to their physiques. Here’s a quote from that article that starts out kind of nice, but ends up very sour:

The girls played well all round. When they threw the ball it went in the direction aimed – something so unusual that it pleased the spectators to death

That one really stings.

Utah was not a kinder place for the Bloomer Girls, take this excerpt from an article in The Ogden Standard from June 14, 1909.

In short the bloomer girls knew as much about baseball – professional baseball – as the average man knows about crocheting a peek-a-boo shirt waist – which is less that nothing

I can go on and on about the mean things written about the Bloomer Girls, and there’s much more. In short, the bloomer girls played baseball and got paid for it, and I’m assuming that they knew more than nothing about baseball. I don’t even know anything about peek-a-boo skirt waists and I’m a lady. I don’t know much about baseball either, but I did play a mean tee ball back in the day and I was the only girl on my team. I think that the Bloomer Girls helped to pave the way for females in sports and it’s important to learn about them. Please enjoy my tee ball picture from my parent’s collection of pictures (I’m not wearing bloomers).

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