By the late 1800s, baseball was wildly popular. Every town had a team that competed against neighboring towns for local bragging rights. Women were not about to be left out. They couldn’t vote or own property after marriage, but they could play ball. They did it in long skirts and high-button shoes. That was about to change.
Amelia Bloomer designed loose, harem-style pants that allowed women more freedom of movement. She designed the style so women could more easily ride bicycles. Her new fashion caught on. Women began wearing “bloomers” for biking, but also for sports like tennis and baseball.
Women’s baseball teams first played organized games in 1875. They were popular with spectators as the teams barnstormed across the country playing local men’s teams. Teams like the Philadelphia Bobbies and the Baltimore Black Sox Colored Girls provided young women with employment, independence, and adventure. Some individual women gained national attention. Beatrice Mitchell signed with a men’s minor league team. She struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
On this date in 1900, the Devils Lake newspaper announced that the Boston Bloomers were coming to town. The team claimed the title of “Champion Lady Base Ball Players of the World.” That was a title they invented themselves since there were no organized women’s leagues and no championship games. Nonetheless, they were one of the best-known women’s teams in the country.
On June 13th, the Boston Bloomers were scheduled to play a game against the Devils Lake men’s team. The newspaper noted that the Bloomers traveled in a first class private “palace car” and brought everything they needed including a grandstand with seating for two thousand spectators.
Not everyone was a fan of the female teams. Critics said they broke traditional gender roles, and they warned of dire consequences exercise had for women. The teams fought hard to stress that they were women of good character. The Devils Lake ad for the Boston Bloomers described them as having “ladylike behavior.” Many teams advertised that no actresses were allowed.
Women’s teams began to fade out with the increasing popularity of men’s minor leagues. The last of the Bloomer Girls teams played in 1934.
Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher
Devils Lake Inter-Ocean. “The Boston Bloomers” [ad]. Devils Lake ND. 6/1/1900, 2.
Wednesday’s Women. “Bloomer Girls’ Baseball Teams.” https://wednesdayswomen.com/amelia-bloomer-and-baseballs-bloomer-girls/ Accessed 5/15/2021.