Dorothy Harrell, star shortstop for the Chicago Colleens (Photo Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)
On May 30, 1943, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) made its debut, with the South Bend Blue Sox (Indiana) beating the Rockford Peaches (Illinois), 1-0 and the Kenosha Shamrocks (Wisconsin) beating the Racine Belles (Wisconsin), 8-6.
Women in Baseball
Women have been playing professional baseball since the 1940s, yet it wasn’t really a well know fact until the 1992 Penny Marshall movie, A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks, that put these women in the public eye.
In 1943, The United States was in full force fighting in World War II. P.K. Wrigley received word from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the 1943 Major League baseball season might be suspended due to manpower shortage. He wanted Wrigley to do something to keep the baseball game going until the men got home from service.
In the midst of removing barriers for women to be able to work in the industry to help the war effort, Wrigley joined forces with Branch Rickey and several small town entrepreneurs to create the first professional baseball league for women. A new game was born. Using rules from the men’s game the game became a faster action game than softball. In 1943, when the league began, the girls were actually playing fast-pitch softball using an underhand pitching delivery, but with certain variations to make the game faster. Runners were allowed to lead off and steal, and the size of the diamond was larger than the field used in softball but smaller than a baseball diamond.
The women of the league were expected to act like ladies and had to abide to the rules of conduct and had to attend charm school to continue to act as a proper lady. Wrigley and his advertising agent promoted the new “Girls Baseball” as wholesome family entertainment for war workers.
Thirty scouts were hired to start looking for outstanding softball players all over the United States and Canada. Four teams were formed and the league started its first season in 1943. In 1944, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League expanded to six teams. By 1946 eight teams were playing 110 games per season.
The schedule of 110-120 games per season consisted of playing single games six days a week plus double headers on Sundays. The only time off were rained out games and then they were made up by doubleheaders next time around. Traveling was done by bus between the different cities leaving right after the game and sometimes arriving just in time to play the next game in the new city.
The pay schedule was from $55.00 to $125.00 per week. In the 1940s and early 1950s that was not bad pay for playing a game that was fun. Expenses on the road were paid by the team including $2.25 per day for meals.
The league lasted from 1943 – 1954. In 1948, the league drew a record 910,000 fans for the 10 team league. The All American Girls Professional Baseball League memorabilia was enshrined in the Cooperstown, New York Hall of Fame on November 5, 1988. Over 550 names are on a plaque in the exhibit named Women in Baseball.
Posted by Lauren Handley, Education Program Coordinator.
All American Girls Professional Baseball League player Marg Callaghan sliding into home plate - April 22, 1948
May 27, 2013, marks the 70th anniversary of Executive Order #9346.If you don’t know this EO, you are not alone.While it is often overlooked by World War II historians, the Order is very important in civil rights history and reflects President Franklin Roosevelt’s concern over the morale of African Americans and their role in defense mobilization.
President Roosevelt issued EO #9346 to reconstitute and expand the power of the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC).This wartime agency was initially established in June 1941 after civil rights and labor leaders threatened to march on the White House to protest lack of training and employment opportunities for African Americans in U.S. defense industries. Executive Order #8802 issued June 25, 1941 established the FEPC as a commission to encourage defense industries to train and hire African Americans, but it really had no legal enforcement.Facing a backlash from conservatives and industry leaders in 1942, Roosevelt placed the FEPC under control of the War Manpower Commission, effectively taking away its independence and any strong agenda. The dire labor shortage of 1943, however, presented Roosevelt with a rationale for giving the FEPC more power.
EO #9346 issued in May 1943 gave the FEPC a renewed independence, and greatly enlarged its ability to promote fair hiring practices.The order created twelve new regional offices that were to implement operating agreements with all twelve War Manpower Commission offices.Field staff in each of these regions worked with local labor and civil rights leaders to document and resolve cases of discrimination in local war industries. Although the fair hiring campaign was technically voluntary, the FEPC staff used negotiations, pressure and appealed to the patriotism of business leaders to enforce fair employment from the summer of 1943 through the fall of 1945.
A segregated work gang at the Pennsylvania Shipyards in Beaumont, Texas. The FEPC documented cases of discrimination in US defense industries and appealed to defense companies to offer employment and training for African American workers. Photo by John Vachon. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
An Expanded FEPC
The expanded FEPC had a significant impact nationally in getting business to train, upgrade and hire African Americans. The FEPC’s efforts at the Consolidated-Vultee aircraft plant in New Orleans are one of its greatest achievements nationally.In this case, the FEPC pushed for greater employment opportunities at the plant on the New Orleans lakefront that manufactured PBY Catalina airplanes, used in multiple-roles and the most numerous of its kind during the war.The FEPC staff, local labor leaders and the New Orleans Urban League negotiated with War Manpower Commission and Consolidated-Vultee industrial relations personnel to successfully implement a training and hiring plan.
Throughout the last two years of the war, the Consolidated-Vultee plant in New Orleans worked with the FEPC in training and integrating black workers. In 1944 alone, the proportion of African American workers at the plant jumped from 2 to 18 percent, and job titles increased by 27 percent.Although entry wages were only fifty to sixty cents per hour, the opening of semi-skilled and skilled positions represented a gain for black New Orleanians, most of whom were women virtually shut out of most skilled trades in defense industries.
The hiring legacy of Higgins Industries is more well-known and celebrated than Consolidated-Vultee.Andrew Jackson Higgins was a man well-ahead of his time in his hiring philosophy.In 1942, Eleanor Roosevelt cited Higgins’ commitment to training and hiring black and white workers in New Orleans on a 50-50 basis.In recent years, Higgins has been praised for employing skilled black and Asian workers. However, the very conservative AFL trade union insured that Higgins Industries would only hire skilled black carpenters, and not in any metal trades, which the union reserved for white workers.So whereas Higgins had great vision for the potential for modern hiring practices, AFL leaders insured that segregation on the shop floor would be maintained with the exception of wood-working.
The record of American defense industries’ hiring practices during World War II is a story that presents both of examples of civil rights success and resistance from the status quo. As such, the history is like many other aspects of the war that are complex and sometimes not pretty.The United States was still a largely segregated society during the war, and today we praise the field staff of the FEPC and business leaders like Andrew Jackson Higgins that had the vision to promote equality and fairness in the workplace
Women riveting at the Consolidated-Vultee Plant in Nashville, August 1942. The Consolidated-Vultee Plant on the New Orleans lakefront increased its African American workforce during the war after careful negotiations with the Fair Employment Practice Committee during the summer of 1943. Photo by Jack Delano. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The Legacy of EO #9346
The legacy of Executive Order #9346 is great, and its impact should not be overlooked. The expansion of the FEPC helped to build a strong network of civil rights leaders who were committed to insuring a more equal society well into the post-war period.Even though the FEPC was dismantled in 1945, these networks of FEPC staff, civil rights and labor activists, church leaders and military veterans served as a the foundation for modern civil rights leadership.The FEPC also set a precedent for the passage of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission established under President John F. Kennedy to insure that non-whites and women had legal basis for fighting wage and hiring discrimination at a time when both were still prevalent.
Ultimately, EO #9346 represented a commitment to equality that makes the United States a great nation.Roosevelt upheld the Four Freedoms as an example of what was at stake in fighting this international conflict.When the all-out war mobilization effort guaranteed everyone a job from 1943-1945, EO #9346 attempted to insure that non-whites had a stake in building the arsenal of democracy. As we celebrate the accomplishments of America during World War II, let us not forget EO #9346 and the nation’s dedication to an equal society.
Negro Training Defense Center, Southern University, 1941. The FEPC helped initiate training programs in defense industries like this one here at Southern University. Courtesy of the National Archives
Ahn Sehong had to go to China to recover a vanishing — and painful — part of Korea’s wartime history. Visiting small villages and overcoming barriers of language and distrust, he documented the tales of women — some barely teenagers — who had been forced into sexual slavery during World War II by the Japanese Army.
The March 1, 1943, cover story in LIFE Magazine highlighted the newest fashion trend on the American Home Front – women in bow ties. As the article stated, “for years women have been buying about 80% of the men’s neckties in the U.S.” Why not purchase them for themselves?
The article goes on to cite several version of the women’s necktie, including the “Senator tie” modeled after the style of William Jennings Bryan (in what we can assume would be first and last time the Populist politician and orator served as a ladies’ fashion inspiration!)
Elizabeth Collier of Nashville, Indiana won the right to represent her state at the Grand Opening of the US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center. As part of her honor, she contributed a photo essay on the Rosies of Indiana and her work appeared in an exhibition that was on display during the month of January. In her post below, Elizabeth describes the steps that she took to create an award-winning documentary on female workers during World War II and the thrill of winning an award at the National History Day Contest.
Elizabeth Collier with Mary Louise (center) and Fran Carter (right)
June 14, 2012. The day that I made that coveted run to the awards stage for the first time. I was overjoyed that my documentary was taking me back to the museum where I had first started all of my research to share the story of the WWII Rosie the Riveter.
I created an Individual Senior documentary about the incredible works of the WWII Rosie the Riveters entitled, “The Will Behind The Drill: The Revolution and Reforms of the WWII Rosie the Riveter.” My research had taken me to The National WWII Museum’s website, and I had found that they were more than willing to help students from around the country. As my parents and I made the trip to New Orleans, I met and researched with Museum curator, Kimberly Guise. As I learned about the women workers at the Higgins Plant in New Orleans, I also was blessed with the chance to interview the ladies of the National Rosie the Riveter Association in Birmingham, AL. Fran Carter, founder of the Association, told me so many stories of her days as a Riveter and how she continues to work with others like me to heed and remember their lessons. I was also able to interview several Riveters in my home state. Mary Harris from Nashville, In. greatly influenced me and my research, and shared stories of her past that she hadn’t thought of in years that brought a smile to her face. Dr. Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Prize laureate of Economics, also added insight to my documentary and shared her love of the work done by the WWII era women workers. (more…)
Seventy years ago, J. Howard Miller’s poster “Rosie the Riveter” poster debuted. The Westinghouse Corporation commissioned the artwork and the campaign, designed to spur production among women workers, was supposed to run for two weeks throughout their factories. Miller’s image has endured and evolved over the years, inspiring new audiences and becoming a symbol of empowerment for women.
On 13 February 1943, the Marine Corps officially established the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, following the lead of the Army, Navy and the Coast Guard in the recruitment of women. Femarines and Glamarines were two of the cutesy suggestions for these new servicewomen, but Marine Corps Commandant, General Thomas Holcomb—who had originally been against the formation of a women’s reserve unit—decided that they didn’t need a nickname because being trained as Marines, they are Marines (although the term “Woman Marine” would continue to be used until 1975).
Women from the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve trained in over 200 different specialties including radio operator, parachute rigger, driver, aerial gunnery instructor, control tower operator, and auto mechanic. They accounted for an overwhelming percentage of the enlisted jobs at Marine Corps Headquarters and over half of the staff at major Marine Corps posts. Over 23,000 women served in the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve.
All Women’s Reserve units were disbanded in September 1946. With the passage of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 women were welcomed into the US Marine Corps.
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the creation of the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, better known as the SPARs—a contraction of the Coast Guard motto, “Semper Paratus – Always Ready.” These women could not serve at sea or outside the continental US (though in 1944 they were allowed to be sent to Alaska and Hawaii), and they had no authority over any man regardless of rank. However, they were given the same pay as their counterparts.
Over the course of World War II, between 10,000 and 11,000 women volunteered. The average enlisted applicant was 22 years of age (29 for the average officer) with a high school diploma and a few years of work experience. The Women’s Reserve preferred applicants who had experience on the water, as swimmers of boaters. Once enlisted, the SPARs were trained at Oklahoma A & M, Hunter College, Iowa State Teachers College, and later the Biltmore Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida. The Coast Guard was the only one of the US military branches to train its female officers at the branch’s own academy, located in New London, Connecticut.
After a month of training, most SPARs were assigned duties that were clerical in nature, although they also worked on other projects such as rigging parachutes, driving vehicles, cooking, and as radio operators. Perhaps the most unique job for SPARs was as operators of the then brand new—and highly classified—LORAN technology used by the Coast Guard for calculating the precise location of ships and aircraft.
As with the other newly minted women’s units of other branches, SPARs were needed in order to relieve men of office work and send them into the Atlantic to stave off the rising threat of German U-boats. A government recruitment video specified that some of the most highly desired positions were for women with backgrounds as lab techs, dental hygienists, dietitians, engineers or draftsmen.
A sign of the times, many families of the women who enlisted were shocked, or unsupportive of their daughters serving in the military. Though by the time the war ended and women in the military proved that their capabilities were equal to the men they released for duty, it would be a new era for women in the American workforce.
SPARs Recruitment Film
SPARS Artifact Highlight: Mary Mills Weinmann
Gift of John Weinmann, 2007.102
This SPARs uniform was issued to Mary Mills Weinmann, who served in the United States Coast Guard Women’s Reserve between 16 September 1943 and 30 September 1945. She was assigned to the Coast Guard Port Authority in New Orleans, Louisiana. Mrs. Weinmann served as a SPAR on a part time basis, for 307 days. The rank on this uniform is that of an Ensign, but she was promoted prior to discharge to the rank of Lt. (jg).
Seventy years ago today, on 24 August 1942, a young girl in New Orleans was thanked in a letter from the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS). Betty’s entertainment efforts were highlighted in our 2009 special exhibit, Entertaining the Troops. Below are images of Betty and some of the costumes she donated to the Museum. She and the other young girls in the troupe from the famed dance academy in New Orleans, Lelia Haller School of Dance, wore these costumes while dancing for servicemen to Carmen, Yankee Doodle Dandy and Ravel’s Bolero .
With the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps having already paved the way for women’s service in the military, the Navy soon followed suit with the formation of their female reserve unit, Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES) on this day 70 years ago. The Navy had long considered allowing women to serve, but hesitated until the attack on Pearl Harbor necessitated more manpower. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt also served as an advocate for the creation of a women’s branch in the Navy. Unlike the WAACS which were an auxiliary unit to the Army, at least initially, the WAVES began as a fully incorporated reserve unit with equal ratings and pay to men serving in the Navy. Women serving in the Navy was not a completely new phenomenon. During the First World War, women known as “Yeomanettes” served their country in the Navy.
WAVES’ service was initially limited to the United States, but by late 1944 they were sent to Hawaii and Alaska. To qualify, a women must be between the ages of 18 and 36, or 20 to 50 for officers, and pass aptitude and health exams. Once sworn in, an unmarried WAVE could not marry a man serving in the Navy, and couldn’t marry at all until training was complete. Women with children could not enlist. Those who qualified were trained at various women’s colleges around the country including Smith, Wellesley, and Hunter. Though trained and assigned ratings in many different occupations, the majority of WAVES were assigned to aviation units, followed by hospital and clerical duties. By the end of the war, approximately 86,000 WAVES had served their country, freeing up as many men—one estimate is enough to man a battleship, two aircraft carriers, and two heavy cruisers—to serve overseas.
Collection Highlight: Ensign Morna Dusenbury
Morna Dusenbury was working as an artist for New Orleans’ Times Picayune newspaper when she volunteered for the WAVES in October 1942. Accepted for service, she attending training at Smith College and was commissioned as an Ensign on 16 December 1942. Ensign Dusenbury was then assigned as an operations officer at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia. Arriving in January 1942, she remained there until reassigned to the Air Naval Commander in Seattle on 11 August 1945 after a promotion to Lt. (jg) in March 1944. With the surrender of the Japanese on 2 September 1945, the military began discharging the reservists, and Ensign Dusenbury was discharged from active duty on Christmas Day 1945.
WAVES summer weight uniform, which would be worn with a neckerchief and rating insignia on the left sleeve. Gift of Jane Dusenbury Culver, 2001.321
WAVES recruitment brochure. Gift of Dorothy Guthman Schlesinger, 2000.126
Descriptions of the type of work WAVES were assigned to as listed in a recruitment brochure. Gift of Dorothy Guthman Schlesinger, 2000.126
The WAVES sought to equate the value of their service to that of men serving in the Navy. Gift of Dorothy Guthman Schlesinger, 2000.126
Lt. (jg) Harriet Ida Pickens and Ens. Frances Wills at Naval Reserve Midshipmen's School in Northampton, Massachusetts. 21 December 1944
Units of WAVES march in formation during a rally at the Washington Monument in celebration of the second anniversary of the establishment of the corps. Washington, D.C. 31 July 1944
First WAVES to qualify as instructors on electrically operated .50 cal machine gun turrets walk to the target range at Naval Air Gunners School in Hollywood, Florida.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American Experience in the war that changed the world - why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today - so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.