The "Bloomer Girls"

Amelia Bloomer designed and wore the loose-fitting, Turkish-style trousers that carried her name, and made sports more practical for women athletes. In the 1890s, scores of "Bloomer Girls" baseball teams were formed all over the country. (Eventually, many of them would abandon bloomers in favor of standard baseball uniforms.)

Edith Houghton
Edith Houghton caption  
There was no league. Bloomer Girls teams rarely played each other, but "barnstormed" across America, challenging local town, semi-pro, and minor league men's teams to an afternoon on the diamond. And Bloomer Girls frequently won, playing good, solid competitive hardball. The teams were integrated when it came to gender; although most of the players were women, each roster had at least one male player. Future St. Louis superstar Rogers Hornsby got his start on a Bloomer Girls team.

The Bloomer Girls era lasted from the 1890s until 1934. Hundreds of teams -- All Star Ranger Girls, Philadelphia Bobbies, New York Bloomer Girls, Baltimore Black Sox Colored Girls -- offered employment, travel, and adventure for young women who could hit, field, slide, or catch.

The Bloomer Girls teams dwindled as more and more minor league teams -- farm clubs -- were formed to provide experience for young men on their climb up to the majors. A few women like Jackie Mitchell were signed, briefly, to minor league contracts, but they were exceptions.

Although women had been playing pro ball on Bloomer Girls teams for more than forty years, in the 1930s public opinion was that they had inferior abilities when it came to sports. Women's professional baseball disappeared when the last of the Bloomer Girls teams disbanded in 1934.

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